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New York State Colleges 


l-f Agriculture and Home Economics 


Cornell University 

Cornell University 

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tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 

J'ri'im I akes T(i ( )eL \^ — ( )ri mn( titc 1 rKsi 

lloats entering tliL hi si lotk il tli i>ll li il \] 
\ii-\e canal, May 15, igi^ Miniid tli hist b( ii w 1 1 
Williams, Superintendent of 1'u1)1il A\ i i I s \\ utl 
Attorney-Oencral Wnndhnry, Treasurer W'elK and 
press re[iresentatives, 


K t til (_ Tsttrn section of the 
\ 1 ni.i \\ biin-nn, S.tate Engineer 
)i>n. Stcittai ; of State Hugo, 
s, wliiU-' tlie second boat carried 





Senior Assistant Engineer, Stale Engineer's Department; Assoc. Member Am. Soc. C. E. 



State Engineer and Surveyor 

Supplement to the Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor for the 
Year Ended June 30 1921 





Chapter page 

Introduction 5 

I The Earlier Canals and the Causes Which Brought About 

THE Barge Canal 13 

II A Broad Outlook and the Contribution of Federal 

Investigations 27 

III Seeking a Canal Policy 40 

IV Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 54 

V The Legislative Contest of 1903 84 

VI The Canal Campaign of 1903 104 

VII Early Policies and Methods 137 

VIII The Addition of Another Branch — The Cayuga and Seneca 

Canal 164 

IX The Terminal Commission, Canal Terminals and Grain 

Elevators 173 

X Canal and Terminal Construction 210 

XI Later Policies 288 

XII Other Details and Incidents 310 

XIII The Commission on Operation 322 


TIONS AND Stress of War 331 

XV United States Control 339 

XVI A State Canal Traffic Bureau 359 

XVII Regulating Canal and Railroad Relationships 365 

XVIII The Canal in Operation 381 

XIXi Attempts to Add Other Branches 396 

XX Cooperating with the United States in Attempts to Add 

Still Other Branches 423 

XXI The Chief Builders and their Assistants 444 

XXII Official Machinery 454 

XXIII Some Engineering Features 466 

XXIV The Water-Supply 486 

XXV The Electrical Equipment 494 

XXVI Some Noteworthy Contractor's Appliances 498 

XXVII State Waterways Association 509 

XXVIII Advertising the Canal 513 

XXIX The Canal and a Deeper Hudson 521 

XXX The Canal and the Port of New York 527 

XXXI The Canal in its Relation to Other Waterways and the 

Country at Large 536 

XXXII Tables of Contracts 557 

XXXIII Tables of Engineers 575 

Index , 585 




From Lakes to ocean — opening the first section Frontispiece 

Flight of locks at Lockport 20 

Lock at tittle Falls 36 

Three locks of the Waterford series S6 

Terminal at Lakes and canal transfer point, Buffalo 80 

Rochester harbor 96 

Dam at Delta reservoir i 120 

Channel in a land-line 132 

Movable dam of bridge type 148 

Approach walls to a lock 168 

Example of terminal equipment 180 

Terminal at Rochester 1 192 

Elevator and terminal at Gowanus bay, New York city 208 

Channel in rock cut, near Rochester 232 

Lighthouse on Oneida lake, at Brewerton 260 

Terminal at Piers 5 and 6, East river. New York city 272 

Bridge across the Mohawk river at Crescent 298 

Taintor gate section of a dam in the Hudson river 316 

Channel in concrete trough, across Irondequoit valley 336 

Fixed dam in the Oswego river, at Minetto 352 

Bascule bridge at Tonawanda 376 

Example of many canal structures in close proximity 392 

Siphon lock at Oswego 416 

State Engineers, 1900-1922 aaa 

Crescent dam, at foot of Mohawk river navigation , 472 

Channel circling deep gorge at Medina, behind high wall 482 

Dam at Hinckley reservoir 402 

Channel in Genesee Valley park,. Rochester 504 

Terminal at Troy, the point of transfer with New England 524 

Entrance into eastern end of Oneida lake 544 



TRANSPORTATION is a matter of supreme importance to 
every nation, and the question of improving transportation 
is of more fundamental concern to most nations than any 
other problem which confronts them. " The most profound 
economic changes of modern times," said the Deep Waterways 
Commissioners, " have been brought about by the improvements in 
transportation. These began with small canals and later with 
railroad construction, in the first half of the century, and have 
proceeded with accelerating speed to the present time." 

The importance of transportation to the welfare of a nation was 
most strikingly illustrated by the attitude of the Chinese delegates 
at the recent Limitation of Armaments Conference. To this body 
were presented for consideration some of the weightiest problems 
in the world's economy, among them the whole Oriental policy, 
but early in the deliberations these delegates said that so far as 
China was concerned the Conference would result in utter and 
irredeemable failure if control of the Kiaochow-Tsinanfu railway 
in Shantung were not again restored to her. 

What student of history can doubt that the possession of natural 
transportation routes has been a controlling factor, often the pre- 
dominant factor, in the destiny of nations? Transportation has 
been important all through the history of the world, but never so 
important as now. In the earlier days countries and even small 
localities were often self-sufficient, but at present all parts of the 
world are dependent for many of their necessities as well as their 
luxuries on nearly every other part. Competition too has become 
very keen in the race for supplying the world's needs and the 
nation which has the best means for transporting its products has 
an enviable advantage over its less-favored rivals. 

Coming nearer home we are moved to ask, Why did New York 
become in fact as well as in name the Empire State? We may 
answer this by asking another question. Why did the earlier pos- 
sessors of the same region, the Six Nations, occupy their position 
of preeminence among -t' . aboriginal tribes ? We answer that the 
situation of their lands, at the headwaters of the streams which 
flowed into all the neighboring territory, giving them easy access 
to these regions both in peace and war, had quite as much to do 
with their fortunate estate as their valor. In like manner New 

6 HistoTX) of the Barge Canal 

York's natural endowment of transportation routes, strengthened by 
wise development, has been her making. New York is the only 
state fronting on both Great Lakes and ocean. New York has the 
best harbor on the Atlantic coast. The great river flowing into 
this harbor is the only stream in the country that has cut a navigable 
channel through the Atlantic coast range of mountains. New York 
has the only feasible route in the United States for a waterway 
between the great inland seas and the ocean and by the same token 
it has the route of easiest grades for railroads or other wheeled 
media of transportation. Other favorable routes in New York, 
one straight through to the northern boundary and several scattered 
about the central region, have conduced to vigorous local develop- 
ment. If anyone doubts that these potential transportation routes 
gave New York its start toward preeminence, let him read history 
and learn that before she began to avail herself of these natural 
advantages she did not stand at the top commercially. But New 
York's greatness is not just at present our special theme. Mention 
of it is merely incidental to showing that transportation is para- 
mount. It was a matter of accident that she possessed these natural 

In serving herself New York served her cotmtry even more. 
Much of the development of the vast central region and also of 
the eastern section of our land is due to these routes of travel and 
transport, by water and by rail, which happen to lie in New York 

A generation ago there was an idea prevalent in the land that 
canals were a worn-out institution. If one still holds to this notion, 
he need only review the trend of enlightened public sentiment for 
the past quarter century; he has but to read the account of the 
recent National Rivers and Harbors Congress, in which the most 
prominent men of the whole country took active part and at which 
the delegates squarely and boldly demanded that Congress at once 
appropriate not less than the amount recommended as necessary by 
the chief of engineers; he should but be reminded that Europe 
awoke to the need of a waterway revival earlier than America and 
that within recent years every great European country in which 
topographic conditions permit has developed its canal system to a 
greater extent than its railroad system. 

Since, therefore, the subject of transportation is so vitally 
important to our common welfare, since canals are again coming 
into their own and also since America's natural and logical canal 

Introduction 7 

route to the interior is that which traverses New York state, the 
building by the State of a great nxodern canal along this route is a 
matter which concerns not New York alone but the whole nation. 
A history of the project accordingly, if it does justice to its theme, 
should be a valuable contribution to the literature of great achieve- 
ments and moreover should contain something of interest to a wide 
circle of readers. Such a contribution the present volimie attempts 
to be, and even if it falls short of its high privilege it cannot fail to 
become, because of the importance of the subject, of some 
appreciable value. 

The entrance of the Barge canal idea into New York's waterway 
plans marked a new and radically changed era in the history of the 
State canals. Viewed from one angle the Barge canal, to be sure, 
is simply the enlargement of four existing canals, and to get the 
true historical setting and to tmderstand why things happened as 
they did we must consider the undertaking from this j)oint of 
view, but the new canal is much more than a mere enlargement; it 
is a change so fundamental in many particulars that the likeness 
between the old and the new is completely lost. Perhaps we can 
best explain this difference by first quoting from the report of the 
Committee on Canals, the body that gave concrete form to the 
Barge canal idea, and then adding a few words in elaboration. 

" In our judgment,'' says the committee, " the efficiency of the 
canals depends quite as much upon the way the business is handled 
on them as upon their physical size, and we advise against the 
expenditure of any more money for their enlargement unless it shall 
be accompanied with measures which will lead to the adoption of 
more modern methods in conducting the business of water trans- 
portation across the state." 

The appointment of this Committee on Canals by Governor Roose- 
velt, it will be observed as we proceed with the account, marked the 
clear line of cleavage between the old and the new in New York 
State canal history, and the following of its recommendations 
wrought the beginning of the change. The Barge canal is as much 
a modernization as an enlargement of the old waterway and perhaps 
tlie former characteristic is the more important, for probably upon 
its present-day methods and contrivances must depend the major 
part of whatever success crowns the venture. Not that there had 
been no worth-while improvements on the old canal. Several new 
ideas had been w.orked out with more or less success, but in the 
main the waterway as it then existed was a thing of the past, the 

8 History of the Barge Canal 

best of its day when it was inaugurated, it is true, but now worn 
out and being continued into a new age, vainly trying to compete 
with the marvelous improvements of that age. Against such odds 
any improvement which was not revolutionary could make little 
headway. Misinterpreting the situation, many persons said that 
the canal principle itself was out of date. They were mistaken; it 
was this particular canal which needed rejuvenating. The boats 
were old-fashioned; the animal-power method of propulsion was 
even more antiquated ; the locks were still worked by main strength 
by the lock-tenders; the whole form of canal operation and man- 
agement was equally old-fashioned. And worse still, the people of 
the state according to their several opinions on canal matters were 
either indifferent, complacent or tolerant of what they wanted to 
do away with entirely but had not the power, and a few were 
chafing under their inability to improve conditions. It needed a 
violent jolt to shake the State out of its lethargy and such a shock 
the failure of the nine-mUlion-dollar project proved to be. Imme- 
diately following that undertaking (unfortunate it seemed at the 
time, but in the light of more mature judgment perhaps a most 
fortunate occurrence and the only thing that would have accom- 
plished the necessary awakening) there came the careful study and 
the expert opinions of the Committee on Canals, men who were 
capable of giving unbiased and dependable advice. At last the 
State realized that it must make a radical change in its canal policy. 
It became willing finally to scrap its old canal and build in its stead 
a modern waterway. 

Of the importance and magnitude of the Barge canal there can 
be no doubt. It is only natural of course that most New Yorkers 
should recognize this, but lest our opinions may become prejudiced 
it is well to view the enterprise through the eyes of an outsider but 
withal one who by training and experience is qualified to speak 
with authority. Let us listen then to the words of a Federal engineer 
who was sent by the Government to inspect the Barge canal in 
order that he might the better undertake certain national work. 

" The first impression that comes to one on visiting the Barge 
canal," said this engineer, " is a feeling of respect for the energy 
and progressiveness of the people of the state who, having seen the 
necessity of an enormous engineering work to hold for the State 
and its metropolis their supremacy in the shipping of the country, 
do not hesitate to enter and push to rapid completion a work which 
any nation would hesitate to undertake.'' * 

* Excerpt from a letter by Major C. O. Sherrill. 

Introduction 9 

As one reads the following pages he will observe that the com- 
plete Barge canal plan did not spring into being Athena-like, full 
panoplied, but rather was a development, an evolution, a work which 
rounded out in completeness as its construction was being carried on 
to completion. Perhaps, however, it should not be said that com- 
pleteness has already been attained. State Engineer Williams said 
recently that he did not expect the canal ever to be entirely com- 
pleted, and the people ,of the state may well echo this statement! in 
the spirit in which it was spoken and let it become for them a 
desire and an aim — that the time may never come when the growing 
commerce of the canal will not need new facilities. 

The reader may perceive also how opportune has been the build- 
ing of the Barge canal. It seems that it could not have been more 
timely if its sponsors had known the future in advance and had 
laid their plans accordingly. It was ready to serve the emergency 
of war, and that such service was curtailed was not the fault of 
the canal. But now it is ready for another service, a service as 
essential perhaps as that of war — the struggle for commercial 
supremacy that is following in the wake of the war. And America 
needs all the help it can get in this struggle. In none of the 
European countries are the distances from the interior to the sea 
very great. The American handicap of long hauls must be made 
as small as possible. 

It cannot be denied nor even overlooked that there is abroad in 
our own state as well as in other quarters a prejudice against the 
New York canals. This feeling may be due in part to certain 
unsavory charges against the canals of a by-gone day. Perhaps 
some of it is due, especially in normally anti-canal regions, to the 
inveighing against the canals by politicians who have accepted this 
easy road to popularity by using the tools of the demagogue and 
appealing to an already existing antipathy, but who thereby have 
strengthened this feeling to the injury of the canals. Much of the 
prejudice is due doubtless to lack of information, especially a lack 
of accurate knowledge concerning the possibilities of the improved 
waterway and what it may accomplish for the State as a whole and 
for its individual users, if it is given a fair chance. Probably, 
howeverf the major portion ,of this opposition is the result of direct 
attempts to create a sentiment against the canals on the part of 
those whose interest it is that the canals should be discredited even 
to their complete undoing. And chief among those who are thus 
attempting to undermine the waterways are the railroads. It would 

10 History of the Barge Canal 

seem that the citizens of the state long ago should have perceived that 
this very opposition of the railroads proves the worth of the canals, 
and also that they should have ceased to be misled by the attacks^ 

At the latest National Rivers and Harbors Congress Major-Gen- 
eral Lansing H. Beach, Chief of Engineers, gave vivid expression 
to this thought. As reported in the daily press he said, " You cannot 
get a better argument for the waterways than the attitude of the 
railroads toward them. They won't prorate; they won't issue bills 
of lading. It seems to be pne of the principles of modern business 
to put a competitor out of the running before the consumer comes 
into consideration. And much that has been done by the railroads 
toward the waterways is simply the question of eliminating a com- 
petitor in business." 

It is hoped that the present volume by setting forth what are 
believed to be accurate accounts and pertinent facts may in some 
degree help to remove this unfavorable judgment upon the canals 
and be the means of establishing a more open-minded attitude. 

The testimony of European experience is that modern canals are 
a most valuable asset to a nation and moreover that even the rail- 
roads are benefited where the two systems are operated as com- 
plementary adjuncts rather than as antagonistic competitors. 

In any public movement there is always a lively interest in the 
human agencies that brought it into being and that fostered its 
growth. So it is with the Barge canal. We want to know who 
conceived the idea, to whom we are indebted for the creation of a 
public sentiment in its favor, who guided its course through the 
maze of political strife and organized opposition, who were entrusted 
with its execution, in a word, the dramatis personae of the whole 
canal project. In these pages the names of the chief actors will 
usually appear and generally to them belongs much of the credit 
for what has been accomplished, but we must not forget that there 
have been many others who have played minor parts but whose 
names even must be sought among inconspicuous records. But 
there is one class of persons to whom honor is due whom we 
desire to mention in particular. These are the people who have 
been in the fight for canal improvements without any seeming per- 
sonal interests at stake, men actuated apparently by little besides a 
constraining desire for the public good. Generally these persons 
have worked through the various waterway organizations that have 
been in existence more or less continually for the last thirty-five or 
forty years. They have been men of vision and to their voluntary. 

Introduction T 1 

unremunerated labor the State is beholden for much of whatever 
success may attend its waterway system. In times of crisis, when a 
public awakening has been needed, they have been the faithful few 
who could be depended on to rally to the support of their espoused 

It may seem at first thought somewhat early to write the history 
of the Barge canal. It is true, of course, that a contemporary writer 
lacks the perspective of years, but if, as in the present instance, he 
has the advantage of having taken part in the events he describes 
and of having had personal acquaintance with the men who were 
chiefly responsible for the happening of those events, such a con- 
temporary writer may bring to his task much that a later author 
would lack. While he may miss the broad interpretation of the 
whole subject as viewed in the light of later history, he can better 
interpret the smaller parts. Knowing the circumstances, he may be 
able even to give true interpretation to certain records which another 
might entirely fail to understand. Also from his own personal 
knowledge he may often supply missing details. 

A few words concerning the framework of the volume seem 
pertinent. The attempt has been made to present a broad outlook 
of waterway affairs, national as well as state, since most of these 
affairs had an influence in shaping Barge canal policies and in 
directing the course of events. In like manner the relationships 
existing between the New York canals and other water transporta- 
tion routes in the country have received attention. The first six 
chapters deal with events occurring pripr to the actual work of 
constructing the canal. The arrangement in these chapters is 
mainly chronological and even the division into chapters is chiefly 
for convenience of reference. In the remainder of the volume the 
arrangement is largely topical, the multiplicity of subjects involved 
in a complete treatment of the theme seeming to demand such 
procedure. Of course occasional overlappings have resulted and 
sometimes rather arbitrary divisions have been made. In explana- 
tion of the omission of quotation marks in making certain verbatim 
quotations from the annual reports of the State Engineer, the 
History of the New York Canals, published as a supplement to the 
1905 State Engineer's report, the Barge Canal Bulletin and other 
publications of the State Engineer's department, it may be said that 
such action seems not improper, especially since often the author 
is quoting his own earlier words. In a sense this volume is a work 
of reference, but it does not profess to be a complete reference book. 

12 History of the Barge Canal 

The aim has been to study causes, discern the results, review poHcies 
and methods, and record important facts, but not to go exhaustively 
into the minutias of detail. Such detail may be found, however, by 
him who must have it, and the sources of this information are 
described in the chapter on canal and terminal construction. Not 
much has been said concerning the financial and legal aspects, the 
processes of land acquisition and various other phases of the 
project. The manner in which the work has been financed is 
important, and many features connected with the vast amount of 
litigation and legal procedure are interesting as well as important, 
but more time than is now available would be required to do these 
subjects justice and even then they would have less popular interest 
than the topics which have been included. 



The Barge Canal: Its Place and Importance in State Canal History — New 
York Canals, 1790 to 1862 — Abandonment of Lateral Canals — Abolition 
of Tolls — Lock-Lengthening — Review of New York City Trade History 
and its Effect on Canal Improvements — " Seymour Plan" of Improve- 
ment — Windom Committee Report — Views on Toll Abolition — Canal 
Improvement Union — Discussion, American Society of Civil Engineers — 
State Engineer Schenck's Proposal — Constitutional Convention of 1894 — 
Nine-Foot Deepening. 

WHEN the people of New York state went to the polls in 
November, 1903, they were called upon to decide one of 
the weightiest questions ever brought befpre them for 
determination. This was nothing less than the question as to 
whether the State should undertake an improvement of its canal 
system which was so large in comparison with an)rthing previously 
attempted, so far-reaching in its results and so different in its nature 
from the earlier canals that it was in effect a new canal policy. 

It is realized of course that to the casual observer this may not 
appear so momentous an event. But the student of canal history 
can interpret the occasion with clearer understanding. He knows 
what material benefits the original Erie canal brought in its train. 
He is aware that this early waterway was the greatest single agency 
in placing New York in its proud position of eminence among the 
states of the Union, that it was the chief instrumentality in open- 
ing and peopling the states of the Middle West, that the initial 
momentum it imparted to development and progress has been a 
force acting as a continuous acceleration from the day of the com- 
pleted canal to this. He has learned too that it brought other than 
material advantages, that probably its most signal benefit was one 
which the statesmen of that time recognized as the great need of 
the hour — its service in binding together by a more extensive and 
sympathetic intercourse and interdependence the great divisions of 
our land,' in demolishing sectional jealousies and upbuilding mutual 
reliance, in dissolving provincialism and substituting a broad-minded 
community of interest and fraternity of spirit. He can understand 
why Lafayette pronounced the Erie canal " an admirable work of 


14 History of the Barge Canal 

science and patriotism." Also the student of modern waterways 
can discern with keener insight what may be the portent of the 
decision given that day in 1903 to enlarge the State canals. He in 
turn knows how great a factor recent waterway improvements have 
been in the rapid commercial development of other countries. He 
has discovered that " the most profound economic changes of modern 
times have been brought about by the improvements in 

The people of the state gave an answer of approval at the elec- 
tion in 1903 and as a result the State has made the improvement 
then ordered; to use the popular phrase, it has constructed the 
"Barge canal." 

We must know first what the Barge canal is. The name itself, 
acquired through popular usage and now so long the generally 
accepted designation that it has become permanently fixed, really 
has no distinctive meaning ; that is, it has no distinctive meaning 
according to the exact definition of words. In its original, unab- 
breviated form, however, " Thousand-ton barge canal," it did spe- 
cifically describe the thing which it named, but even this more 
definite term long ago became a misnomer, since subsequent legis- 
lative enactment largely increased the capacity of the canal. , But 
according to the authorizing law this enterprise is simply the 
" Improvement of the Erie, the Oswego, the Champlain and the 
Cayuga and Seneca canals," and if we are to get the true historical 
setting of the project and learn what causes brought it into being 
and what mission it was designed to fulfill, we must recognize a 
fact which this official phrasing indicates, namely, that the under- 
taking is but one phase of a development which has been going 
on for more than a century. Moreover, in our whole study of the 
State canals we must remember that the waterways are the product, 
of an evolution, and this rule holds in the case of the latest phase 
of this large evolution, the Barge canal, which has been a develop- 
ment even within itself and has come to include several features 
not embodied in the original project. To put ourselves in the way 
of understanding this development we must bring in review certain 
events of the past century and a half. 

Glancing quickly over the history of water transportation in New 
York state, we see that up to 1790 only the natural streams, with 
but few artificial improvements, were in use, and that the little effort 
to better them was as yet without tangible results. Between 1791 
and 1807 came the period of the Inland Lock Navigation Companies' 

Earlier Canals: Barge Canal Causes 15 

canals, during which the natural streams were improved by private 
enterprise and were used to a limited extent. The year 1808 
marked the beginning of the agitation which resulted in the State 
commencing to build its own canal system in 1817. By 1825 the 
first two branches, the Erie and Champlain canals, had been com- 
pleted. Then began a period of such unexpected success in the 
canal venture that five lateral canals were built by the State and 
two by private companies and the first enlargement of the Erie 
canal was begun, all within a decade. The years 1835 and 1862 are 
respectively the beginning and the official ending of the first canal 
enlargement. As a matter of fact, however, considerable remained 
to be done at the so-called completion in 1862 and gradually in 
after years this work was done. This period between 1835 and 
1862 witnessed the enlargement of the Oswego, the Champlain and 
the Cayuga and Seneca canals as well as that of the Erie branch. 

Our review of canal history after 1862 must proceed more slowly, 
since we soon come to events which bear directly upon the Barge 
canal project. 

After so protracted a season of new construction as was the first 
enlargement, extending over a period of twenty-seven years, there 
naturally followed several years of little activity. It is significant, 
however, that scarcely four years had elapsed before the subject of 
additional enlargements had twice been seriously discussed. 

From the beginning of waterway-building by the State the canals 
have had both their advocates and their opponents. The remarkable 
success attending the early years of the original canals gave rise to 
a blind, popular frenzy, which clamored for extensions and branches 
all over the state. Almost as unreasoning was an extreme dis- 
affection toward the canals which was manifest in the late sixties 
and early seventies. This unfavorable attitude was growing for 
several years before it reached the climax of decisive action. The 
railroads had more and more been drawing traffic away from the 
canals. The revenue had been falling off and some of the lateral 
branches, which never had been self-sustaining, were making heavy 
demands on the surplus earnings of the more prosperous trunk 
lines. The canals, instead of being a rich source of income as in 
the initial years, had begun to draw on the public purse and the 
people grew restive. WTien in addition there came purported revela- 
tions of extravagance, mismanagement and fraud, the outburst of 
popular disfavor could be appeased only by the abandonment of all 
but the five canals which remain today and a few short adjuncts of 

16 History of the Barge Canal 

these main branches. Four of these canals are included in the 
Barge canal system and the fifth dehvers much of the required 

The most notable event in the years just succeeding the abandon- 
ment of the lateral canals is the aboUtion of tolls. Boatmen had long 
complained that they could not compete with rival routes and in an 
attempt to stem the tide of traffic diversion the tolls had been reduced 
year by year or had been entirely removed from certain articles. 
Since the Constitution restricted expenditures on canals to the reve- 
nues received, the contintmlly decreasing tolls had not permitted the 
waterways to be kept in perfect repair and this condition in turn 
had reacted to the detriment of commerce. 

At the general election in 1882 the people approved a constitu- 
tional amendment which made the State canals absolutely free. In 
one of its aspects this aboUtion of the tolls vitally concerns our study 
of later canal improvements. Thereafter the maintenance of the 
State waterways was paid from monejrs appropriated by the L^s- 
lature and raised by taxation. The outcome has been that more 
extensive improvements were soon undertaken than was possible 
under the old policy and gradually the way was opened for accom- 
pUshing vast enterprises in comparatively short durations of time. 
In comparison it should be recalled that under the restrictive method 
of procedure the first canal enlargement was protracted through a 
period of twenty-seven years. 

The year 1884 marks what may be termed the beginning of the 
present era of canal improvement. Since that year each succeeding 
project has followed so closely upon its predecessor that the time 
may with propriety be called a period of steady progress, which has 
gone on until the goal of a completed modem waterway, the Barge 
canal, has been reached. 

The first improvement of this series was that of lock-lengthening. 
The Legislature of 1884 appropriated 830,000 to lengthen lock No. 
50, which is located just west of Syracuse. The bill was piloted 
through the L^slature by Hon. George Ointon, of Buffalo, grand- 
son of DeWitt Qinton, chief promoter and builder of the original 
State canals, and himself for many years and to the present time a 
most ardent and presistent advocate of all measures for canal 

During the first enlargement of the canal two locks had been built 
side by side. In the terminology of the time these were known as 
double locks, whereas locks placed end to end and each having a lift 

Earlier Canals: Barge Canal Causes 1 7 

were called combined locks. (The names twin locks for the former 
type and tandem locks for the latter are now often used.) Each of 
the double locks was no feet long between gates and i8 feet wide. 
In the scheme of lock-lengthening, which in the next few years suc- 
ceeded the initial experiment at lock No. 50, one of these double 
locks was increased to a length of 220 feet between gates. Generally 
the lengthening was done at the foot of the old lock and the berme 
lock was more often selected as the one to be lengthened. 

The purpose of this work was to make it possible to pass at one 
lockage two boats lashed together end to end. The practice of boats 
traveling thus in pairs had become quite common. Double headers 
they were called ; sometimes they were horse-drawn boats, sometimes 
the pair consisted of steamer and consort, and sometimes even a 
second pair was towed by a long hawser trailing from the forward 
pair. The time saved in locking two boats at one operation and also 
in avoiding the necessity of uncoupling and refastening reduced the 
cost of carriage by a considerable amount. The law authorizing the 
first lock-lengthening required that it should be possible still to use 
the old lock for the passage of a single boat. This was accomplished 
by placing gates at the centers as well as at each end of the lengthened 

But the question naturally arises, Why should the people of the 
state have desired to improve the canals? Did they still have faith 
in them ? We have seen how the pendulum had swung to the extreme 
of disaffection. Was there something more than sentiment behind 
the keeping of the main branches and then their improvement 
through three successive periods of enlargement? A brief review 
of the tradei history of New York city will reveal one reason for 
making these canal improvements, perhaps the chief reason. 

Confining our study entirely to the agricultural side we find that 
New York city early had added to her natural advantages other 
advantages almost as powerful in their determining influence on the 
trade of the country in favor of the metropolis. To mention only 
two — one the Erie canal, the other her financial preeminence in the 
country, the latter giving control of resources that enabled her to 
make immediate advances on all produce seeking its ultimate market 
through her port. Unquestionably the result of business originated 
by the canal was a period of uninterrupted progress and development 
lasting for over fifty years, a period of intense activity, of almost 
superhuman endeavor, of colossal enterprise, and of constant adjust- 
ment and readjustment to the needs of enlarging trade. During the 

18 HistoTX) of the Barge Canal 

whole period, aided ty these two advantages, New York maintained 
her proud supremacy. The open line of communication through her 
port with every part of the world and her ability to finance the move- 
ment of the crops of the country gave her every ascendency in the 
grain trade and made her mistress of the flour and provision trades. 

In the eighties, however, the commerce of New York began to 
feel the effect of the great economic and industrial changes that 
were taking place throughout the country. These changes revolu- 
tionized trade everywhere and in no place more than in New York. 
The advent of steam on the ocean ; the extension of railroads on the 
land; improved financial conditions and facilities throughout the 
country; refrigerators and the introduction of the refrigerator car; 
the use of the telephone; the growth of the great milling and pack- 
ing-house corporations, with their immense capital, splendid organi- 
zation and extensive sales and distributing departments; all con- 
tributed toward the revolution in trade methods and resulted in open- 
ing many new channels for the steadily enlarging trade of the 

To New York it all meant an active fight to hold the trade that 
formerly came to her without an effort on her part. Other ports 
began actively to compete for a share of her export trade. Western 
states began to assert themselves as trading centers. Canada became 
a formidable competitor. And, to cap it all, the railroads, pushed to , 
the limit of their capacity by the enormous export trade of New 
York and by the demands of her constantly enlarging local business, 
sought to divert some of her heavy export traffic by estabUshing 
differential rates against her in favor of other cities, where it could 
be handled at less expense to themselves and with less interference 
with high-class freights. As a result, although New York still 
remains the great center of international trade, she has not made the 
relative trade gains in comparison with other ports. 

This brief outline of general trade history shows the important 
part played by the waterways of the state in the development of its 
trade. It explains also the interest of certain men and organizations, 
especially the New York Produce Exchange, in canal affairs. It is 
estimated by experts and is generally conceded by all that grain and 
foodstuffs will furnish seventy-five per cent of the preliminary 
traffic on the Barge canal and this will practically all come consigned 
to members of the Exchange, to be inspected and distributed under 
its rules. It is no wonder then that the Exchange itself, as well as 
its members, when the old canal began to lose its real functioning 

Earlier Canals: Barge Canal Causes 19 

power as a result of changed conditions, started to agitate for a new 
canal capable of doing for New York under modern conditions what 
the old canal did for New York under former conditions. It was 
the old canal that originated and developed its trade and now when 
its trade is subject to assault on all sides it is the new canal to which 
it looks for help in maintaining it. As we shall see presently it was 
these New York business men, members of the Board of Trade and 
Transportation, the Produce Exchange and other similar organiza- 
tions, who revived interest in the canals when favorable sentiment 
was at the lowest ebb and who have been at the forefront of all 
canal agitation.* 

Before returning to the account of actual accomplishments in New 
York canal development, it is well to get a broa'd view of the whole 
field and consider for a little while what people had been and were 
thinking and what plans they were making in relation to the com- 
mercial situation as it then confronted them. 

But first we must notice that a few years prior to the abolition of 
tolls a scheme of enlargement, known as the " Seymour plan,'' was 
enunciated, which, although it effected no change at the time, is note- 
worthy as showing a definite attempt at improvement. Also, a score 
of years later the channel actually was deepened somewhat after the 
idea proposed at this time by State Engineer Horatio Seymour, Jr. 

The immense increase of trafific between the western states and 
the Atlantic seaboard had for several years made the subject of 
cheap transportation an all-important national problem. In Decem- 
ber, 1872, the President had called the attention of Congress to it. 
A Senate committee, of which Senator William Windom was chair- 
man, made a thorough and elaborate examination of the subject and 
reported f its findings to the Senate in 1874. 

This report stated that New York State possessed the key to the 
commercial situation and that the Erie canal had done more to 
advance the wealth, population and enterprise of the western states 
than all other causes combined. It went on to say that the canal had 
increased the value of the public lands and that the western grain 
regions were directly interested in the development, the improvement 

* We are indebted to a member of the New York Produce Exchange for 
this review of the trade history. The main facts and several excerpts are 
taken from a paper read by Edward R. Carhart before the New York Water- 
ways Association on November 21, ipig, and printed in the Tenth Annual 
Report of that organization. 

t Report 307, 43d Congress, ist Session. 

20 History of the Barge Canal 

and the maintenance of this waterway. It was of supreme import- 
ance, the Committee deemed, that the people of the United States 
should sustain this vital regulator of freight charges. The Erie canal 
had earned for the State a generous income during its period of 
highest rates, from 1862 to 1869, when the tolls averaged 6% cents 
per bushel and they still paid when the tolls were reduced one-half, 
1870 to 1874, and now that the State in a liberal spirit had abolished 
tolls entirely and thrown open the canal to the free commerce of the 
world, the only hope of the people against the united influence, power 
and capital of the railroads, said the Committee, lay in the Erie canal. 
It was directly beneficial to at least twenty million people in twelve 
western states and had proved that the greater the facilities the less 
was the cost of transportation. 

Senator Windom, in a speech in the Senate in 1878, said that Erie 
canal rates exerted an influence over all other rates from the Gulf 
states to the St. Lawrence river and from the Atlantic ocean to the 
foot-hills of the Rockies. In support of this statement he introduced 
a letter from Albert Fink, Railway Trunk Line Pool Commissioner, 
than whom there was no higher authority in the United States on 
the transportation question, who said in substance that whenever 
rates from Chicago to New York were reduced by reason of the 
opening of the Erie canal season there followed a reduction from all 
interior cities, such as St. Louis, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, and 
that, if the direct lines from such localities did not at once meet the 
reduced water rates, their freights would reach New York by way 
of Chicago or other lake ports and the Erie canal and these direct 
lines would be left without business. The canal affected Boston, 
Philadelphia and Baltimore rates as well, continued Mr. Fink, and 
also the rates from South Atlantic ports and the southern states 
generally, imtil it reached the line of influence of low ocean rates, 
all rail rates in fact being kept in check by water transportation. The 
circumstances attending this statement, said Senator Windom, com- 
ing as it did from one who was then acknowledged as the best- 
informed railway manager in the country, gave it the binding force 
of testimony elicited under cross examination. 

In this same Congress, the forty-eighth, first session, a biU to aid 
New York State in enlarging its canal by an annual appropriation 
of $1,000,000 for ten years was reported. This measure, however, 
never became effective. 

Canal men declare now that the freedom from tolls saved the 
canal, but just after their abolition even official opinion was divided 

Y. " 

Earlier Canals: Barge Canal Causes 21 

and often was skeptical of the success of the venture. Governor 
Cleveland in his annual message to the Legislature of 1884 said that 
canal business in 1-883, the first year of free canals, fully justified 
' the policy of relieving commerce from the burden of the tolls. 
Comptroller Ira Davenport, however, in his report, attributed the 
increase to an unusually large general movement of freight through 
the state, railway traffic having increased also, with higher rates pre- 
vailing. The increase on the canal, he said, had been disappointing 
and there was no revival of interest in boat-building. But it 
remained for State Engineer Silas Seymour to declare free canals a 
failure and to voice his unqualified opinion, set forth in emphatic 
language, that the State waterways had outlived their usefulness and 
" it must be regarded as a foregone and inevitable conclusion that 


With so keen an appreciation of the need of speedily solving the 
transportation problem and with the canal prospect so gloomy that 
even its friends were wavering, the time was at hand when some one 
should rally the forces of the canal advocates and spur them on to 
united and vigorous action. This rallying agent was found in the 
New York Board of Trade, which in 1884 called a State convention 
to consider what should be done in order to secure the permanent 
improvement of the State waterways. 

This convention met in Utica in July, 1885, and organized " The 
Union for the Improvement of the Canals of the State of New 
York." Former Governor Horatio Seymour was chosen president, 
but he died within the year after his election and was succeeded by 
George Clinton of Buffalo, who was elected president at the second 
convention of the organization, which was held in Syracuse in 1886. 

As we have just seen, at the time of organizing the Canal Improve- 
ment Union canal affairs were at a very low ebb. The people gener- 
ally had come to look upon the waterways as of small importance 
and of but little and decreasihg influence in the field of transporta- 
tion. Even the friends of the canals were becoming disaffected and 
were inclined to oppose any efforts for improvement. The work of 
the Union, therefore, was to make the people see the true importance 
of canals and to restore them again to public favor. In this it suc- 
ceeded admirably, even in the face of an opposition that was rein- 
forced by the trunk line railroads, which had established a bureau 
from which anti-canal literature was sent unceasingly and by the 
millions of copies to all parts of the state. But the Union gained 
great strength, such strength indeed that by 1887 a leading New 

22 History of the Barge Canal 

York daily declared that it was " the most powerful and influential 
aggregation of commercial and manufacturing interests within the 
state of New York." 

The Canal Union continued in existence for ten years. During 
that time the work of lock-lengthening was begun and completed 
and the project of increasing the depth of water to nine feet had 
been passed by the Legislature and approved by the vote of the 

There is another occurrence which deserves a passing glance, since 
the men who were concerned voiced the most enlightened public 
thought and the most expert professional opinion of the day on the 
subject. In June, 1884, at the annual meeting of the American 
Society of Civil Engineers there was a discussion of the canal ques- 
tion, participated in by a score of prominent engineers. EInathan 
Sweet, State Engineer of New York, led the discussion in presenting 
a paper on the subject of building a ship canal across the state. The 
project he outlined was a canal which should have 18 feet of water, 
a bottom width of 100 feet, and locks 450 feet long by 60 feet wide, 
and should be so located as to have a continuous descent from Lake 
Erie to the Hudson river. This discussion dealt not only with the 
ship canal but also with the whole broad state waterway question. 
It effected no result of course, except as it helped to mold public 
opinion, but it is significant in showing the trend of thought which 
later became crystalized in actual accomplishment. 

To return to the account of what was being accomplished on the 
canal, we note that for a period of about ten years, commencing 
with 1884, the project of lock-lengthening was in progress. During 
this time forty of the seventy-two Erie canal locks were lengthened 
and twelve of the twenty-three Oswego locks. This work was con- 
tinued up to almost the beginning of the next improvement, which 
was a comprehensive scheme of canal enlargement known popularly 
as the " nine-miUion-doUar " improvement, the general plan of which 
was to deepen the canal to nine feet. During the nine-foot deepen- 
ing, moreover, a little work of the earlier character was done, six 
more locks being lengthened on the Erie and one on the Oswego. 

A certain act of the Legislature of 1892 is noteworthy because of 
its far-reaching effect in shaping the canal policy of the future. It 
authorized the election of delegates to a Constitutional Convention 
which met in 1894, one of its duties being the consideration of 
amendments relating to the care and improvement of the State canals. 

The lengthening of locks had its place in canal development, but 

Earlier Canals: Barge Canal Causes 23 

at most this slight improvement was not adequate to the needs of 
the time. It expedited the transit of boats but it did not increase 
their capacity. To enable the canals to compete with their rivals it 
seemed evident that the channel must be made larger. The first 
scheme of this character to be tried was a deepening from the exist- 
ing seven feet to a proposed nine feet. This was really a modifica- 
tion of the " Seymour plan," which in its original form called for an 
increase of at least one foot in depth. 

Canal advocates hoped that this contemplated improvement, which 
they had secured only after much labor, would meet the needs of 
water transportation for a number of years to come. We know, 
however, that even two or three years before construction was 
authorized a plan very much like the next succeeding enlargement 
had been proposed by State Engineer Martin Schenck as the practical 
canal of the future. Mr. Schenck gave expression to this opinion 
in his annual report for 1892. This report is worthy of attention 
not only because it contains this first official presentation of a scheme 
of enlargement which in general closely resembles the Barge canal 
project but also because there is revealed a clear insight into the 
reasons for such a canal — the same reasons in substance which led 
the Canal Committee in 1900, after making an exhaustive study of 
the subject, to recommend to the State the building of what has come 
to be known as the Barge canal. The immediate occasion of dis- 
cussing this topic was the measure then pending before Congress to 
appropriate $100,000 for the purpose of making a survey for a ship 
canal from the Hudson river to the Great Lakes. A little later, as 
we shall see presently, the Federal government did authorize this 
survey as a part of the undertaking known as the Deep Waterways 
Survey. In his discussion the State Engineer favored the proposed 
survey because of the valuable information it would furnish, but a 
ship canal, he deemed (and we quote his apt phrasing), was only a 
pleasing idea to contemplate and not a practical plan to consummate. 
The use of three types of vessels — lake, canal and ocean — in 
shipping goods from the Lakes to Europe was a state of affairs, he 
thought, which was likely to exist for years to come. Also ocean 
steamers could not with economy navigate the canal, and lake vessels 
could not compete with ocean liners in transporting cargoes to, 

In announcing his solution of the problem he said, " The practical 
canal of the future, connecting Lake Erie and the Hudson river, 
ought to be one capable of bearing barges 250 feet in length by 

24 History of the Barge Canal 

twenty-five feet breadth of beam, of a draft not to exceed ten feet 
and of such height that the great majority of bridges that shall span 
this canal may be fixed structures instead of draw bridges. With 
this proposed canal (which can be built for a reasonable sum) bear- 
ing barges towed in fleets, each boat carrying 50,000 bushels of 
wheat, New York will be enabled to hold her commercial supremacy 
against all comers for many years to come." 

In passing we should notice that in this same report the State 
Engineer called the attention of the Legislature to a set of very 
conservative and wise resolutions adopted by a canal convention held 
in Buffalo on October 19, 1892, relative to enlarging the canal prism. 
The demand for a larger canal seemed imminent and he recom- 
mended that funds be provided to enable him to make a survey of 
the Erie canal from which to make plans for increasing the depth 
of water to nine feet. If this suggestion had been heeded there 
would have been something better than the antiquated survey of 
1876 on which to base an estimate of cost for deepening the canals 
to this same depth, nine feet, when the Constitutional Convention of 
1894 called upon the State Engineer and gave him only twelve days 
in which to prepare such an estimate, and much of the trouble 
attending the nine-foot enlargement might thus have been averted. 
In his annual report the next year State Engineer Schenck 
described more in detail his idea of the canal of the future. Its 
depth was to be 12 feet, the same as later chosen for the Barge canal, 
and the width 100 feet at water-line. The route, however, was to be 
practically the same as the existing canal and in this respect it 
differed from the Barge canal, which has left the old alignment and 
follows and canalizes many of the natural streams. 

But to return to the nine-million-dollar improvement. Little 
regarding its details need be said here, since in this review of canal 
history prior to the beginning of actual Barge canal agitation we are 
concerned chiefly with the larger aspects of the various events, and 
these we are studying simply to learn what influences led up to and 
were instrumental in bringing about the building of the Barge canal. 
Briefly it may be said that the Constitutional Convention met in 
May, 1894, and among the amendments it approved was one which 
provided that the canals might be improved in such a manner as the 
Legislature should decide and that a debt might be authorized for 
that purpose or the cost might be met by appropriating funds from 
the State treasury or by equitable annual tax. Although this amend- 
ment conferred upon the Legislature no powers in addition to those 

Earlier Canals: Barge Canal Causes 25 

it possessed under the existing constitution, it was considered that 
the vote at the ensuing November election would reveal the popular 
attitude and if favorable would be in effect a mandate to the Legis- 
lature to undertake the improvement of the canal. 

This Convention called upon the State Engineer for estimates of 
cost for deepening the canal to nine feet. For several years the 
State Engineers had been urging the Legislatures to appropriate 
money for a survey upon which to base this very estimate, but 
without avail. We have noted one of these recommendations — > 
made by Mr. Schenck. Lacking the information which this survey 
would have furnished. State Engineer Campbell W. Adams made 
what use he could of the old and entirely inadequate survey of 1876 
and prepared his estimate within the allotted time, only twelve days, 
but stated it was merely a guess, assuming all conditions to be favor- 
able. The amount was $11,573,000, with an additional million 
needed for repairing and rebuilding walls. 

The people approved the canal amendment in 1894. The Legis- 
lature of 1895 passed a referendum for deepening the canal to nine 
feet, naming nine million dollars as the amount to be expended. This 
sum was arbitrarily fixed by the Legislature and without consultation 
with the State Engineer. Probably it was believed to be all the 
people would be willing to authorize at the time. This measure in 
turn was approved by popular vote at the general election of 1895. 
The statute required work to be commenced within three months. 
As soon as possible, by January 13, 1896, twenty-eight parties began 
surveys over the entire length of the Erie, Champlain and Oswego 
canals, a distance of 454 miles. The plans and estimates were pre 
pared. The probable cost as shown by these estimates was thirteen 
and a half millions, or fifteen millions with engineering, inspection 
and advertising added. A later revision made the total sixteen 

Although there were only nine millions to expend, construction 
was begun. By cutting out certain pieces of work it was hoped to 
bring the cost within the amount of money available. This hope, 
however, proved to be without foundation and by the latter part of 
1897 it began to be realized, first by those connected with the work 
and then by the public generally, that the proposed improvement 
could not be completed within the appropriation. And with these 
reports came rumors of alleged frauds and extravagance in admin- 
istering and prosecuting the enterprise. 

26 History of the Barge Canal 

With the sudden stoppage of work, the inquiry of an investigating 
commission into the expenditures, the severe criticisms, the bitter 
controversy taken up by the pubhc press, the later legal examinations 
and opinions to fix the responsibility and determine whether criminal 
proceedings should be started, with these things we need not now 
concern ourselves. What we do need to know, however, is that the 
appropriation was exhausted, the work of deepening less than two- 
thirds completed and the people of the state keenly disappointed; 
also that they were distrustful of all things and everybody connected 
with the canal and were bewildered as to what to do next. 

It is worthy of note that the investigating commission, although 
in its report it criticised the way in which the improvement had been 
carried on, had only words of praise for the canal itself, calling 
attention to its high value as the cheapest means of transportation 
and recommending the continuation of the improvement regardless 
of its cost. 

Before the Legislature of 1898 had ordered the appointment of a 
commission to investigate the nine-million improvement, it had before 
it two measures which call for our passing attention. One was a 
referendum bill for raising seven millions to complete the work then 
in progress, this sum being the State Engineer's estimate. The other 
was a proposition to turn over the canals to the Federal government. 
This latter measure raised a storm of protest and when it came to 
vote was defeated by a large margin. The bill to raise seven millions 
was not pressed to a vote, canal advocates deeming it wise in view 
of the forthcoming investigation to let the matter drop. 



Congressional Reports — General Activity — New York Survey for Ship 
Canal — The Ship Canal Idea — International Deep Waterways Com- 
mission: Summary of its Report: Its Recommendations — Board of 
Engineers on Deep Waterways: Surveys and Report: Costs and 
Dimensions: Relative Advantages, 2i-Foot and 30-Foot Channels: 
Route Favored: Ship and Barge Canals Compared: New York Route 
Preferred to St. Lawrence — Col. Symons' Investigation on Ship and 
Barge Canals: Conclusions and Influence. 

WHILE the State had been thus engaged in lengthening its 
canal locks, in attempting a subsequent enlargement and 
later in investigating what it had done, the question of 
adequate water transportation between the Lakes and the seaboard 
was still an unsolved national problem of supreme importance, con- 
cerning which discussions and agitation had been going on con- 

In Congress, in 1889, a revision of former estimates and sur- 
veys was made by Captain Carl F. Palfrey, Corps of Engineers, 
U. S. A., for a 21-foot canal on two routes from Lake Ontario to 
Niagara river. This was published in the report of the Chief of 
Engineers for 1889. A bill was introduced in Congress the same 
year providing for a commission to select one of these routes and 
appropriating one million dollars, but was not acted on. In 1890 a 
report with maps, profiles and revised estimates was made by William 
Pierson Judson and published in H. R. No. 283, S2d Congress, ist 
Session, 1892. The estimates were for two routes from Lake 
Ontario to Niagara river and for 21 feet depth of water. Other 
reports were also made to Congress — in 1890 by Representative 
Sereno E. Payne, in 1892 by Representative C. A. Bentley and in 
1896 by Representative C. A. Chickering and Senator Calvin S. 
Brice, in eadh of which the commercial and engineering aspects of 
the case were fully presented and favorably discussed. In February, 
1892, the subject of ship canals across New York state, by both 
the Ontario and the Erie routes, was under consideration by Con- 
gress and Major Dan C. Kingman, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A., 


28 ' History of the Barge Canal 

presented a general statement of the plans and estimates that had 
been made up to that time and of the existing conditions and costs. 

At munerous waterway conventions and meetings of engineering 
societies papers were presented and the subject was discussed in all 
its aspects. Many articles were pubUshed in technical and popular 
periodicals, and editorials frequently appeared in the newspapers. 
Of this large amount of information that was continually being 
disseminated we need not mention specific examples.* The topic of 
better and cheaper transportation was of sufficient public interest 
to demand a goodly supply of literature and frequent discussion, 
and the people gladly read and heard what those who knew about 
the subject had to tell. 

About this time the question of a ship canal between the Lakes 
and the Atlantic came prominently to the front and the subject took 
on more of an international complexion than ever before. In 1892 
the Congressional committee on railways and canals recommended a 
survey for a ship canal from the I.^es to the navigable waters of 
the Hudson river. In September, 1894, a convention of mercantile 
exchanges was held at Toronto, Canada, in which delegates from the 
western cities in the grain belt participated. These are merely two 
incidents which are indicative of what was happening. 

During the same period the Canadian government was contem- 
plating an increase in size of its canal system, even up to the 
dimensions of a ship canal. On some of its branches a smaller 
enlargement was actually beg^un. Also the Georgian Bay ship canal 
project was launched, and this route would shorten the haul between 
Lake Huron and tide-water by hundreds of miles. In later years 
the survey for this canal showed 282 miles less distance between 
Sault Ste. Marie and ^Montreal than by the Lakes and St. Lawrence 
route. The plans made from this survey call for a 22-foot channel. 
In New York state, even while the measure for deepening to 
nine feet was pending, the first steps towards a still larger channel 
were taken. On August 24, 1895, State Engineer Campbell W. 
Adams directed Albert J. Hines, Resident Engineer on the Eastern 
Division, to make an examination for an enlarged canal along what 
was called the Oswego route. It was in ^larch of this year that 
the Legislature had passed the bill for the nine-foot deepening and 
the people were preparing to vote on it in November. The report 
on this examination states that it was undertaken because the great 

* See Bibliography in History of the Canal System of the State of New 
York, etc., for list of some of these publications. 

Broad Outlook: Federal Investigations 29 

interest in enlarged canals manifested by the recent convention of 
the Deep Waterways Association and by the citizens of New York 
state in the late election had made it desirable to obtain better infor- 
mation than had heretofore been available about the cost of a work 
such as the one proposed. The route extended from the Hudson 
river at Watervliet to Lake Ontario at Oswego, following the 
Mohawk river to Rome and going thence down Wood creek and 
across Oneida lake and on by a cross-country line to the Oswego 
river near Phoenix and then down the Oswego to the lake. In 
making the estimate of cost it was considered that the canal would 
have a bottom width of lOO feet and a depth of 20 feet of water 
and that the locks would be 450 feet long by 60 feet wide. The 
estimate was $82,098,601. 

As we have just said, the ship canal idea was growing in promi- 
nence and public favor. One who was closely associated with the 
whole waterway movement. Col. Thomas W. Symons, in writing 
of the two projects that were before the people in 1895 — the nine- 
foot deepening of the New York canals and the ship canal scheme ■ — • 
says of the latter: 

" The other movement was much more widespread, but had not 
reached the era of actual work. It was the agitation and demand 
throughout all the region of the Great Lakes and a goodly portion 
of the Atlantic seaboard for a ship canal connecting the lakes with 
the sea. Many letters were written to the press, favoring the 
project. The newspapers of the region had many articles and 
editorials in the same line. Numbers of public meetings were held 
and enthusiastic speeches made for the ship canal project. Orators 
and writers depicted the magnificence of the future when great 
ocean ships should leave Liverpool and other- foreign ports and 
proceed directly to Chicago, Duluth and all the other chief cities of 
the lakes bringing the commercial productions of the world and 
exchanging them for the grains, lumber, ore, etc., of the Northwest, 
right in the heart of the continent. Some, more conservative, were 
content with the idea of a canal which would permit the ships of the 
Great Lakes to reach the seaboard and there deliver their loads to 
the people of the coast or exchange their foreign-bound cargoes with 
the deeper draft ships engaged in ocean commerce. The glamor 
of the Ship iCanal from the Lakes to the Sea, like a brilliant aurora 
borealis, shone brightly over the whole lake region." * 

* Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Vol. XIII, p. 122. 

30 Hislors of the Barge Canal 

Under the inspiration of this wide-spread movement an inter- 
national Deep Waterways Commission was created, to "make 
inquiry and report," to use the language of the United States Con- 
gressional resolution, " whether it is feasible to build such canals as 
shall enable vessels engaged in ocean commerce to pass to and fro 
between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic ocean." By a law of 
March 2, 1895, Congress authorized the appointment of three per- 
sons who should meet with any similar committee appointed by Great 
Britain or Canada. On November 4 the President announced as 
his appointees, James B. Angell of Ann Arbor, President of ^Michi- 
gan University, John E. Russell of Leicester, Mass., prominent in 
poUtics in his state and a student of public affairs, and Lyman E. 
Cooley, C. E., a well-known engineer of Chicago. Soon afterward 
Canada appointed OUver A. Rowland, iL P. P., of Toronto, Thomas 
C. Keefer, C. E., of Ottawa, Past- President, American Society of 
Civil Engineers, and Thomas Monro, C. E., of Coteau Landing. 

These commissioners served without pay and had but little money 
for expenses, not enough for comprehensive surveys, but they made 
a very thorough examination of the subject committed to their charge 
and presented a report filled with valuable information. The Ccwn- 
mission presented its report on January 8, 1897, and the President 
in turn transmitted it to Congress a few days later, January 18. 

From the wording of the Congressional resolution, already quoted, 
it appears that the chief duty of this commission was to determine 
the feasibility of a ship canal between the Great Lakes and the 
Atlantic seaboard. The commission was required further to repwrt 
whether there was an adequate water-supph', where the canals might 
best be located, what the probable cost would be and what treaty 
arrangements would be necessary if any part of the canals should 
lie in Canadian territory. 

This dream of a ship canal to the heart of the continent has been 
a most persistent idea in the minds of a large part of the American 
people. As we shall see presently a certain investigation ordered bj' 
the Federal government in 1896 convinced many persons that a 
barge canal was preferable to a ship canal and the ship canal idea lay 
quiescent for nearly a score of years, all through the period of con- 
structing the Xew York State Barge canal, but recently it has been 
revived and now again, in the Middle West especially, is in full 
vigor. It is well then for us to consider carefully the findings of 
this commission, since it was created for the express purpose of 
rendering a careful, well-informed and just opinion on the ship 

Broad Outlook: Federal Investigations 31 

canal question and moreover was composed of broad-minded men 
capable ,of rendering such an opinion. To avoid any possibility of 
wrong interpretation, we shall quote the report verbatim : 

"After considering this question in its various aspects," say the 
commissioners, " we conclude — 

" First. That it is entirely feasible to construct such canals and 
develop such channels as will be adequate to any scale of navigation 
that may be desired between the several Great Lakes and to the sea- 
board, and to conduct through the same domestic and foreign com- 
merce, and thait, in our opinion, it will be wise to provide for secur- 
ing a channel of a navigable depth of not less than 28 feet. 

" Second. That starting from the heads of Lakes Michigan and 
Superior, the most eligible route is through the several Great Lakes 
and their intermediate channels and the proposed Niagara ship canal 
(Tonawanda to Olcott) to Lake Ontario ; and that the Canadian sea- 
board may be reached from Lake Ontario by the way of the St. 
Lawrence River, and the American seaboard may be reached from 
Lake Ontario by way of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain 
and the Hudson River, or by way of the Oswego-Oneida-Mohawk 
Valley and the Hudson River. 

" Third. That the alternative routes from Lake Ontario to the 
Hudson River require complete surveys and a full development of 
economic considerations to determine their relative availability. 

" Fourth. That moderate control of the level of Lake Erie and 
of the Niagara River above Tonawanda may be justified in connec- 
tion with the Niagara ship canal, the determination in this matter 
to rest on a full examination of the physical conditions. 

" Fifth. That the policy should contemplate the ultimate develop- 
ment of the largest useful capacity, and that all works should be 
planned on this basis, and that the actual execution should conform 
thereto, except in so far as the works may, without prejudice, be 
progressively developed with the actual demands of commerce. 

" Sixth. That it is practicable to develop the work in separate 
sections and the several sections in part by degrees, each step having 
its economic justification, so that benefits shall follow closely on 
expenditure, without awaiting the completion of the system as a 

" Seventh. That the completion of the entire system as quickly 
as proper projects can be matured and economically executed is 
fully justified. 

" Eighth. That the Niagara ship canal should be first undertaken, 
and incidentally the broadening and further deepening of the inter- 

32 History of the Barge Canal 

mediate channels of the lakes, the same being in the logical order of 
development, and also requiring the least time for consideration."* 

In order that the examination might be carried on to completion 
the commission made several recommendations, the result of which 
was the creation of a Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways. Since 
these recommendations became in effect the instructions under which 
this board of engineers tmdertook its work, we shall quote such of 
them as are pertinent, as follows : 

" I. That complete surveys and examinations be made and all 
needful data to mature projects be procured for — 

" (a) Controlling the level of Lake Erie and projecting the 
Niagara ship canal. 

" (b) Developing the Oswego-Oneida-Mohawk route. 

"(c) Developing the St. Lawrence-Champlain route. 

" (d) Improving the tidal Hudson River. 

" (e) Improving intermediate channels of the lakes. 

" II. That the coUecting and reducing of existing information, 
supplemented by reconnoissances and special investigations, be con- 
tinued until the general questions have been fully covered. 

" III. That a systematic measurement of the outflow of the several 
lakes and a final determination of their levels shall be undertaken." f 

Under act of Jtme 4, 1897, the President appointed a Board of 
Engineers on Deep Waterways. It consisted of Lieut. Col. Charles 
W. Raymond, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, and Alfred Noble 
and George Y. \\'isner, two well-known engineers in civil life. The 
act directed the Board to make the surveys and examinations in 
accordance with the recommendations we have just noted, and a 
later act, that of July i, 1898, specified that the estimates of cost 
should be for canals of 21 and 30 feet depth, respectively, to be 
accompanied by a statement of the relative advantages of each. 

The task set the Board was immense and several years were 
required for its performance. A large corps of engineers was 
employed and thorough surveys and estimates were made. A total 
of $485,000 was appropriated for the expenses. The report of the 
Board, which is dated June 30, 1900, was transmitted to Congress 
by the Secretary of War on December 2, 1900, and is most elaborate 
and complete in every detail. 

Since this is the report of supreme authority on the subject of a 
ship canal between the Lakes and the Atlantic and also because its 

* House Document No. 192, 54th Congress, 2d Session, pp. 29, 30. 
t Id., p. 30. 

Broad Outlook: Federal Investigations 33 

influence was ever present in the agitation for the Barge canal it 
will profit us to scan its pages thoughtfully. As an interesting side- 
light we notice that many of the engineers engaged in this investi- 
gation, from two members of the Board down to those in the humbler 
ranks, were later employed on the Barge canal, either the preliminary 
.surveys or the subsequent construction, the writer of the present 
volume among the number. 

F,or our present purpose we need not look at more than the con- 
clusions of the Board, but the details of its work have been of much 
value to New York State, first in assisting the State Canal Commit- 
tee in its investigations in 1899 and then in helping the State Engineer 
in his survey in 1900, when they obviated many miles of surveys 
which otherwise would have been necessary, and later in the planning 
and construction of the Barge canal. 

With the exception of the investigation into the relative merits of 
the 21- and the 30-foot channels the duties of the Board, as specified 
by the creating act, were of a purely engineering character and did 
not include the consideration of questions of Government policy or 
commercial desirability. In general the Board confined itself strictly 
to these prescribed duties, just hinting at something more. 

The surveys covered two routes between Lakes Erie and Ontario, 
one from Lasalle to Lewiston and the other from Tonawanda to 
Olcott ; also two routes from Lake Ontario to tide-water, one by way 
of the St. Lawrence river. Lake Champlain and the Hudson river, 
the other by way of Oswego river, Oneida lake, Mohawk river and 
Hudson river. Along the later course there were estimates on both 
a high-level plan and a low-level plan. The Board favored the 
Lasalle-Lewiston route and the Oswego-Mohawk low-level plan. 
The estimated cost of a 21-foot canal from Duluth to New York by 
the Lasalle-Lewiston-Champlain route was $190,382,436, and by the 
Lasalle-Lewiston-Oswego-Mohawk low-level route, $206,358,103. 
A 30-foot canal between these two points would cost $320,099,083 
and $317,284,348 by the same respective routes. Estimates from 
Chicago to New York were also given — $5,495>379 less for the 21- 
foot channel and $17,313,321 less for the 30-foot channel. 

If these figures are to be compared with the costs of other proj- 
ects, it must be remembered that prices of materials and labor have 
undergone a vast change since the time these estimates were made. 
Probably also in the event of construction many contingencies would 
have arisen to increase them. In writing of these estimates as long 

34 History of the Barge Canal 

ago as 1909 Col. Syraons said, "A study of the board's detailed 
estimates and recent experiences on the New York State barge canal 
construction, the increased cost of labor and materials since the report 
was completed, and the infinite complications which would arise to 
vested interests and properties in doing such a work, indicate very 
clearly to me that these estimates would have to be largely increased, 
probably by from 25 to 50 per cent." Moreover, if the canal had 
been built, the lake harbors would have had to be deepened to accom- 
modate sea-going vessels and this work would have added ma.ny 
millions to the sums contained in these estimates. 

The chaimel widths on which the estimates were based were as 
follows: For the 21-foot depth in earth section, 215 feet bottom 
width with side slopes two on one with a bench ten feet wide on each 
side five feet below water-surface, a wash wall to line a further two 
on one slope from these benches to other benches ten feet wide at 
five feet above water-surface. Any excavation above these latter 
benches was to have the same two on one slope. The area of this 
cross-section is 5,497 square feet. In rock section for the same depth 
the average width was 240 feet at bottom with slopes of one on ten. 
At five feet above water-surface was a ten-foot bench with a 
further one on ten slope to the top of the rock cut. If there were 
earth excavation above that, it had a two on one slope, footing at the 
back of another ten-foot bench. The rock cross-sectional area was 
5,040 square feet. For the 30-foot channel these same descriptions 
apply to the side slopes, but the earth section had a bottom width of 
203 feet and the rock section an average width of 250 feet, the areas 
being 7,990 and 7,500 square feet, respectively. 

Single locks designed for the 30-foot waterway were 740 feet long 
and 80 feet wide. If flights of locks were necessary, a duplicate set 
having a width of 60 feet was provided. For the 21 -foot channel 
the locks, whether single or double, were 600 feet long and 60 feet 

In trying to answer the question as to the relative advantages of 
channels of 21 and 30 feet depth the Board divided its study into 
two parts and considered first the direct benefits and then the indi- 
rect benefits. The conclusion was that the return in direct benefit 
was much greater from the 21-foot waterway than from the 30-foot 
waterway. It appeared also that in indirect advantages the 21-foot 
canal promised a much greater return of value relatively to its cost 
than the 30-foot canal, the main superiority of the larger channel 
being that it would furnish the lowest cost of transportation to 

Broad Outlook: Federal Investigations 35 

foreign markets and would permit the construction of ocean vessels 
at Great Lakes shipyards. 

There are two things in this report which, because of their bearing 
on subsequent Barge canal agitation, we should notice particularly. 
The Board said that the most favorable route for a 30-foot waterway 
from the Lakes to the sea was by way of the Oswego and Mohawk 
valleys and that this same route was practically as favorable as any 
for a 21-foot waterway. Moreover this route had the added advan- 
tage of being wholly within United States territory, of having a 
longer season of navigation than the more northerly line, of having 
a much simpler problem of defense than a canal lying partially in a 
foreign country and of being available as a line of communication for 
ships of war. It will be observed that the Oswego branch and the 
easterly half of the Erie branch of the Barge canal follow the 
general alignment chosen by the Deep Waterways Board. 

Throughout the fierce conflict between canal and anti-canal forces 
over the Barge canal project the ship canal scheme and this Deep 
Waterways report were ever being brought forward in argument 
against the 1,000-ton waterway. There was a reason for selecting, 
the barge size of channel as the New York canal policy and those who 
were responsible for making this selection thought that it was a good 
and sufficient reason. We need not discuss this reason now; a full 
account of the matter will appear presently, but briefly it was that 
investigation had shown that transportation by barge canal, including 
two transfers of cargo, was cheaper than by ship canal with no trans- 
fer. But while we are reviewing this report we should see just what 
the Board had to say in regard to the subject. 

" It is easily conceivable," reads the report, " that a barge canal 
of moderate dimensions, requiring transfers at Buffalo and New 
York, might be of more direct benefit to the State of New York than 
a canal of sufficient dimensions for the uninterrupted passage of 
ships; but much of this benefit would be at the expense of the 
producers and shippers of other parts of the country." * 

On the other hand the report says, " It is, however, considered by 
high authorities very doubtful whether a vessel can be so constructed 
as to navigate successfully and economically the ocean, the lakes, and 
the canal. The ocean vessel must be stronger than the lake vessel, 
and more costly in construction, operation, and maintenance, and it 

* House Document No. 149, 56th Congress, 2d Session, p. 125. 

36 History of the Barge Canal 

must be fitted with expensive appliances which are not required in 
the lake traffic." * 

If we did not know who was speaking in this latter quotation, we 
might reasonably think that we were listening to a barge canal 
enthusiast expounding the basic reason for his advocacy of a barge 
rather than a ship canal. Surely the two quotations do not seem 
entirely consistent. 

Two other quotations from this report are of especial interest, 
particularly in view of the recent revival of the ship canal project. 
These excerpts give the Board's reason for its opinion as to which 
route is best for a canal between the lakes and the sea. 

" The project for a waterway from the lakes to the Atlantic suit- 
able for transporting the commerce of the upper lakes," says the 
report, " has prominently attracted public attention for nearly a 
century, during which time the citizens of New York have main- 
tained that such waterway must be built directly across the State, as 
an aid in building up the financial and commercial supremacy of 
New York City, while the people farther west have insisted that the 
canal should be constructed on the route best adapted for transport- 
ing the commerce of the country tributary to the lakes." 

Then after mentioning an incident of 1812 not pertinent to our 
present study, the report continues : 

" It was then, and is still, openly admitted that the St. Lawrence 
River is the natural outlet and the line of least resistance for a water- 
way from the Great Lakes to tide water, but that for New York 
State to permit such canal to be built would be to commit commercial 

" The advocates of this theory have left out of consideration the 
fact that the larger portion of the commerce between the lakes and 
tide water is of a domestic nature and that the only benefits to be 
derived from export traffic through a port are those from lev)ang 
tribute on the foreign commerce of a neighboring State. 

" It is an established fact that a waterway of sufficient capacity 
to transport the tonnage of the lakes to the sea can be constructed 
via Lake Ontario for less cost than by any other route, and that a 
steamer will traverse it in about three-quarters the time required on 
a direct waterway of similar dimensions from Lake Erie to the 
Mohawk at Utica. If, therefore, the object desired is to develop a 
waterway which will best subserve the interests of the lake commerce, 

*Id., p. 123. 

Broad Outlook ■' Federal Investigationa 37 

it is apparent that the route should be through Lake Ontario and 
that a ship canal from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario should be an 
essential part of it." * 

There was one particular investigation, however, that was made 
under Federal authority a little earlier which had more to do with 
shaping the New York canal policy than any other examination or 
survey, either Federal or State. This investigation was made by 
Major Thomas W. Symons, later Colonel, Corps of Engineers, U. 
S. A., retired, who had come to Buffalo in 1895 to take charge of the 
Federal river and harbor work in the vicinity. Although the act of 
Congress authorized primarily an examination and estimates for 
constructing a certain type of canal, Col. Symons extended his studies 
into the realm of comparative costs of transporting by ships and 
canal barges and thus acquired definite information on a subject in 
which there had been before no authoritative data. In writing of 
this investigation Col. Symons describes so well the parts of it which 
became the controlling influence in determining future action that we' 
are quoting from him at some length. 

Referring first to the report of the Board of Engineers on Deep 
Waterways, Col. Symons says: 

" This elaborate and expensive report on the ship canal question 
on its presentation and publication fell flat and has scarcely been 
heard from since except to use some of its findings and statements 
for contentious purposes, and its maps and data for other canal proj- 
ects. No official effort to bring it up or to cause its suggestions or 
recommendations to be carried into effect was ever made. The 
apparent reason for this practical obliteration of the ship canal from 
official consideration was the fact that while it was in progress the 
question of the relative economy and efficiency of ship and barge 
canals was studied and analyzed by the writer and others and found 
to be largely in favor of a barge canal. 

" The River and Harbor Act of June 3, 1896, contained the 
following provision: 

" ' The Secretary of War is hereby directed to cause to be made 
accurate examinations and estimates of cost of construction of a 
ship canal by the most practicable route, wholly within the United 
States, from the Great Lakes to the navigable waters of the Hudson 
river, of sufficient capacity to transport the tonnage of the lakes to 
the sea.' 

* [d., pp. 50, 51. 

38 Hhtory of Ihe Barge Canal 

" The work was placed in charge of the writer by letter from the 
Chief of Engineers, dated August 13, 1896, and the report called 
for was submitted June 23, 1897. 

" The gist and greatest value of the report consists in the careful 
investigation that was made into the cost per ton of carrying capacity 
of lake ships and canal barges, and the cost of operating the same. 
These costs, with the items of transfer at Buffalo, insurance on 
vessels and cargoes, interest on investment and deterioration, all 
reduced to a single unit of freight, enabled a comparison to be made 
between the economy and efficiency of a ship canal and a barge canal. 

" It was roughly estimated that the ship canal would cost $200,- 
000,000 and the barge canal (Erie alone) $50,000,000. The estimated 
cost per ton of carrying capacity of steel lake freighters was deter- 
mined to be from $35 to $50, while the cost per ton of carrying 
capacity of canal barges, including a steamer with each fleet, all 
suitable for navigating the canal, was $10 to $20. 

" With everything reduced to the same basis, it was calculated 
that the cost of transporting a bushel of wheat in lake freighters of 
7000 tons capacity through a suitable canal from Buffalo to New 
York was 2.28 cents, while the cost of transporting the same bushel 
in a fleet of barges, each carrying 1500 tons, through a suitable barge 
canal from BuflFalo to New York, and including the transfer charges 
at BuflFalo was 2.07 cents, and if the transfer charges were reduced, 
as they have since been reduced, was 1.66 cents. 

" In making this comparison no consideration was given to the 
cost of the canal or the cost of operating it, the basis of comparison 
being the interest on the cost of carriers, deterioration thereof, insur- 
ance of carriers and cargoes, ordinary repairs, fuel, oil, and waste 
and the wages and subsistence of the crews of the vessels. If the 
first cost of the canal and the cost of maintenance and operation were 
taken into consideration, the showing in favor of the barge canal over 
the ship canal would have been still more marked. 

" The study was convincing that for the highest economy in trans- 
portation, special types of vessels are needed for use on the ocean, 
on the lakes, and on the canals, and neither can replace the other in its 
proper waters without suffering loss of economical efficiency. Ocean 
vessels could not, as a general rule, engage in the business of passing 
through a ship canal and the lakes to the upper lake ports, and lake 
vessels are not fitted for use upon the ocean, and if they made use of 
a canal they would have to transfer their cargoes at the seaboard, 
ordinarily by means of lighters, floating elevators, etc., at a higher 

Broad Outlook: Federal Investigations 39 

expense than such transfers would cost at the lower lake ports. For 
economical transportation through a canal from the Great Lakes to 
the sea special vessels, differing from and far less costly than ocean 
or lake vessels, are required. 

" The conclusion was reached by the writer that even if a ship 
canal were built, the greater cheapness of barge canal transportation 
would prevent its use by large ships, and cause it to be used almost 
entirely by fleets of barges which could be almost equally as well 
accommodated in a smaller and cheaper canal. 

" The report was submitted June 23, 1897, and published in the 
Report of the Chief of Engineers for 1897. No action was taken on 
it by the General Government, but it had an important influence in 
shaping public opinion in New York, in killing the ship canal idea, 
and in furnishing a standard about which the canal interests of New 
York could rally. The $9,000,000 fiasco, the dazzling pictures of- 
the ship canal advocates, and the dismal pictures of the enemies of 
all canals, had produced a state of bewilderment in regard to the canal 
questions. The report advocating a barge canal for boats of about 
1500 tons capacity cleared things up, and was a solution of the prob- 
lem which was received with favor and grew in estimation, until it 
was finally adopted by the State and, with modifications, is now being 
carried out." * 

It will be well to remember these words of Col. Symons. They 
explain the basic principle which governed the choice of a barge rather 
than a ship canal across New York state. In the maze of events 
and discussions that took place before the people finally decided what 
course to pursue we may lose sight of the influence Col. Symons' 
investigation had on the whole question. Col. Symons was a member 
of the committee which later formulated the State canal policy and 
thus was able to give the State the full benefit of his earlier 

* Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Vol. XIII, selected paragraphs 
on pp. 124-129. 


New York Commerce Commission Appointed — Groping for a Canal Policy 

— Canal Advocates Attempting to Rally — Opposition and Discourage- 
ment Found Everywhere — Suggested Remedy — State Committee on 
Canals Appointed — Call for a State Commerce Convention — Results of 
Commerce Convention — Work of State Committee on Canals — Its 
Report: Recommendations: Other Alternatives, Canal Abandonment 
and Ship Canal: Abandonment Discussed: Ship Canal Discussed: 
Estimates — Com.merce Commission Reports — Governor's 'Message 
Transmitting Reports of Canal Committee and Commerce Commission 

— Commerce Commission's Report: Commerce Decline Due Largely 
to Differentials: The Remedy, Canal Improvement: Recommendations. 

AFTER this rather lengthy digression into the national aspects 
of the waterway problem we return to events in Xew York 
state. Just as the work of deepening the canals to nine feet 
was coining to a close a commission was appointed by Governor Black 
which had a distinct bearing on the canal poUcy the State was later 
to adopt. This body was known as the New York Commerce Com- 
mission and it consisted of five members, Charles A. Schieren, ex- 
Mayor of Brooklyn, Andrew H. Green, C. C. Shayne, Hugh Kelly 
and Alexander R. Smith. In his annual message to the Legislature 
the Governor had recommended such a commission and under a 
legislative act of April 29, 1898, he was given authority to appoint 
it. The duty of this commission was to inquire into the condition 
of the commerce of New York, the causes of its decline and the 
means for its revival, also to summarize its conclusions, suggest 
advisable legislation and report to the Legislature of 1899. On Janu- 
ary 18, 1899, the commissioners reported that, owing to a defect in 
the creating statute, they were without funds properly to carry on 
their investigation, and they recommended the continuance of the 
commission and an appropriation for doing the work. In his message 
to the Legislature Governor Roosevelt endorsed this recommendation. 
As a restdt the commission was granted an extension of time and a 
fund for expenses. The work done by this commission was most 
excellent. Its report to the L^slature, which contained an abun- 
dance of valuable data, was submitted in 1900, almost contemporane- 


Seeking a Canal Policy 41 

ously with the report of the State Committee on Canals. We shall 
review the commission's report as we reach it in due chronological 

We have said that after the failure of the nine-million plan the 
people of the state were bewildered as to what to do next. The same 
may be said of the political leaders and of the canal advocates as 
well, as we shall see presently. Governor Roosevelt's annual message 
to the Legislature of 1899 shows that in canal matters he was feeling 
his way. He said little of importance on this subject except that he 
would send a later communication. 

The nine-million-dollar improvement had Ijeen carried on under 
a Republican administration. It followed naturally that all of the 
malodorous publicity, the adverse criticism and the charges of fraud 
and extravagance connected with the undertaking were eagerly 
seized upon by the opposing political party and used for partisan 
ends, and the effect was felt at the polls in the general election. 
Another Republican administration, however, came into office in 
1899, but with the pall of the old administration still clinging to it. 
The new leaders felt it incumbent on them, therefore, not only to do 
their duty by the State but also in some way to retrieve the good name 
of their party. 

With a considerable sum spent for improvement and the water- 
ways no better fitted than before to handle a larger through traffic, 
the canal question could not be ignored. The people were in no mood 
to temporize and they expected some definite, constructive policy. 
And so it is that we find canal advocates beginning anew during the 
winter of 1898-99 to rally their forces for further contest. And we 
find too the State officials seeking information to guide both them- 
selves and the people at large in determining what was the best thing 
to do. 

The New York Board of Trade and Transportation and the 
Bufifalo Merchants' Exchange have been at the forefront of the 
canal battle line for the past quarter century and more. At this 
juncture it was the New York organization, and particularly its 
indefatigable canal workers, Frank S. Gardner, secretary, and Wil- 
liam F. McConnell, assistant secretary, that first joined the fight. 
In the fall of 1898 the Board, fearing that grave danger threatened 
the very existence of the State canals, appointed a special committee 
to confer with other commercial organizations and with the friends 
of the canal generally throughout the state for the purpose of reviv- 

42 History of the Barge Canal 

ing the sentiment for canal improvement and, if advisable, calling a 
State canal convention. 

In the following winter the Board sent Mr. McConnell on this 
mission through the state, but the effort proved an entire failure. 
In a report to the Board a year later the committee on canals said 
that " on the first day of January, 1899, the canal improvement move- 
ment seemed dead beyond hope of resurrection. The temper of the 
people and the Legislature forbade any attempt at legislation looking 
to a continuance of the improvements. The policy of the Governor 
was undefined. With a view to revive interest, this board sent Mr. 
Wm. F. MdConnell to visit representative men and organizations in 
the interior of the state. Emphatic opposition and discouragement 
were found everywhere. The old friends of the canals had lost 
heart, and many of them were openly opposed to any further attempt 
to save the canals. We were unable to secure a single promise from 
any organization or individual for cooperation in an attempt to revive 
the canal movement. At that time the secretary of the board sug- 
gested the calling of a State convention on the broader ground of 
State commerce. He contended that State commerce embraced canal 
commerce; that the canal question would necessarily become promi- 
nent in any discussion of State commerce, and he predicated that the 
canal question would thereby be revived and possibly become the 
overshadowing topic in any representative gathering of the business 
men of this State. It was conceded everywhere that something must 
be done for our commerce, but no plan or policy had been formed, no 
measure outlined." 

The Canal Improvement Union, which came into being in 1885, 
had been allowed to go out of existence with the beginning of the 
nine-million improvement. With no prospect of reviving this Union 
or of forming any new organization which should consider canal 
matters exclusively, the suggestion mentioned in the preceding para- 
graph was carried out and a call was issued for a State Commerce 
Convention. But before going on with this subject we shall see what 
steps the Governor was taking to solve the canal problem. 

On March 8, 1899, Governor Roosevelt appointed a body of seven 
men to serve on what is known as the Committee on Canals. This 
has sometimes been called the Governor's Advisory Committee. A 
month earlier, on February 8, the New York Board of Trade and 
Transportation had addressed a communication to the Governor and 
on the same day had adopted resolutions which were sent to him, in 
each of \diich it was declared that the time had come for radical 
measures if New York were to preserve her proper commercial posi- 

Seeking a Canal Policy 43 

tion. The resolution went on to recite that New York had not kept 
pace with the gigantic strides of sister states, the Dominion of 
Canada or competing ports in the way of improving or enlarging its 
canals and providing terminal facilities, and that, unless the abuses 
of railroad discriminations, elevator charges, wharfage exactions, 
port charges and all other kinds of taxes on commerce were cor- 
rected at once and the canals improved without delay, it was certain 
that New York would soon be compelled to surrender her com- 
mercial supremacy to more active and far-sighted competitors. 
Doubtless these communications helped to influence the Governor in 
his action. 

The Canal Committee consisted of five citizens of New York 
state. General Francis V. Greene, of New York city, George E. 
Green, ex-Mayor of Binghamton, John N. Scatcherd and Major 
Thomas W. Symons, U. S. Engineers Corps, of Buffalo, and Frank 
S. Witherbee, of Port Henry, and two State officials, Edward A. 
Bond, State Engineer, and John N. Partridge, Superintendent of 
Public Works. General Greene and Major Symons were West Point 
graduates and army engineers of wide experience. Major Syjnons, 
as we have seen, had already given the New York State canal ques- 
tion careful study. The other members were men of business who 
were versed in transportation problems. It is said that ex-Mayor 
Green represented anti-canal sentiment, being himself opposed to 
canals when the committee began its investigation, but that he had 
become a staunch canal advocate by the time the committee's work 
was finished. 

The Governor began his letter of appointment to the several mem- 
bers of this committee by saying, " I am very desirous of seeing the 
canal policy of the State definitely formulated," and he closed the 
letter with the words, " The broad question of the proper policy 
which the State should pursue in canal matters remains unsolved, 
and I ask you to help me reach the proper solution." 

The duty of the committee, therefore, was that of formulating a 
State canal policy, and, as we shall see later, such proved to be the 
service it performed. The committee spent nearly a year in making 
its investigation and during this period there was so much uncer- 
tainty as to what the findings would be that little could be done by 
canal men except to await the report. There was one step, however, 
which waterway advocates could take, and the preliminary call for a 
State Commerce Convention, of which mention has already been 
made, went out in May, 1899. In order to understand how through 

44 History of the Barge Canal 

this and other agencies the apathy on canal matters throughout the 
state was gradually turned into new enthusiasm, we must look first 
at the objects the promoters of this convention hoped to attain, as 
set forth in the call, and then at the work done by the convention. 
In the call we read: 

"How may commerce and manufactures he increased within the 
State of New York is the question for the State Commierce Con- 
vention to consider. What means may he employed for the advance- 
ment of these great primary interests? 

" The first practical step in that direction is to get together. No 
part of the State but is deeply interested in this question. Every 
part of the State should be represented. 

" The second practical step follows, viz., discussion, the presenta- 
tion of needs, the statement of propositions, the suggestion of and 
agreement upon measures for a betterment of conditions. 

" The third practical step is to unite the influence of all sections 
represented to secure from the Legislature the enactment of the 
measures which may be agreed ui)on." 

The convention met in Utica on October lo to 12, 1899. There 
were present delegates from 53 chambers of commerce, boards of 
trade or other business associations, and four county boards of 
supervisors; also the mayors of 11 cities and the presidents of 19 
villages. Hon. John D. Kernan of Utica was elected permanent 
chairman. One of the three days was devoted chiefly to canal and 
canal terminal questions and strong canal resolutions were adopted 
with but one dissenting vote. 

In speaking of this convention, Frank S. Gardner, who was 
elected as one of its secretaries, says: 

" The greatest enthusiasm over the canal question was immediately 
aroused throughout the State, and as had been anticipated it again 
became the most prominent State issue. So strongly was the in- 
fluence felt at once that both of the great political parties were easily 
induced to place planks in their platforms which endorsed the 

" The resolutions of the conventions as printed in the abstracts 
of the proceedings expressed the policy and wishes of the com- 
mercial interests of the State but they can give no conception of the 
labor involved in presenting them to the Legislature, in spreading 
them abroad among the people and in meeting and finally defeating 
the forces of the opposition. The State Commerce Convention 
served the purpose for which it was called into existence, to revive 

Seeking a Canal Policy 45 

the discussion of the canal improvement question at a time when it 
appeared to be a lost cause. It not only revived the discussion, but 
it brought to the support of the canals thousands of the most 
influential business men and politicians in the State." * 

During the summer and fall of 1899 the committee on canals of 
the New York Produce Exchange held a series of meetings for dis- 
cussing the canal problem. The result of its deliberations was the 
adoption of a resolution favoring the construction of a canal of a 
depth of not less than fourteen feet of water and corresponding 
width, with a new alignment of canal, if necessary, by canalizing 
rivers. In October this committee received the State Committee on 
Canals, at the suggestion of the latter, and expressed its views on the 
subject of canal enlargement. A little later the Produce Exchange 
invited the commercial organizations of Greater New York to meet 
its canal committee for a consultation relative to the State canals. 
This meeting was held on December 12 and in addition to the com- 
mercial organizations the State Committee on Canals was present. 

In pursuing its investigations the State Committee on Canals held 
various public hearings and conferred with interested business men 
and also sought through correspondence the opinions of many who 
were qualified to give helpful information or advice. The meetings 
with the Produce Exchange were in line with this policy. These 
meetings are chosen for mention here because they are typical of 
what was taking place and also because this was the most prominent 
among the organizations or individuals to recommend an enlargement 
somewhat like the plan which was eventually adopted. 

The Committee ,on Canals carried on its work with zeal through- 
out the year 1899. One of the members, Mr. Witherbee, visited 
Europe during the summer and made a study of the canals of 
France, Belgium and Germany. The Committee called to its assist- 
ance distinguished engineers and experts in canal matters and in its 
report it was able to present a document replete with well-considered 
and authoritative statements, supplemented by a large collection of 
valuable information, the statistical tables and data relating to canals 
and commerce being compiled by the Committee's competent secre- 
tary, John A. Fairlie. 

For the welfare of the canals a committee such as this proved 
itself was indispensable. The people of the state had evinced a 
willingness to make whatever improvement seemed best, but after 
the failure of the nine-million project they were bewildered and 

* Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Vol. XIII, pp. lo-ii. 

46 HtstoT]) of the Barge Canal 

distrustful and they needed guidance, and it was necessary that their 
leaders and advisers should be those in whom they could have im- 
plicit confidence. The personnel of the Committee, together with 
Governor Roosevelt's well-known reputation for straightforward 
dealing, furnished ground for this confidence and the report when 
it was rendered g^ave evidence of being an able, unbiased and authori- 
tative decision. 

On January 15, 1900, the Committee ,on Canals transmitted its 
report to the Governor. It recommended that the Erie, Oswego and 
Champlain canals should not be abandoned but should be maintained 
and enlarged and that the Black River and the Cayuga and Seneca 
canals should be maintained as navigable feeders but not enlarged 
at that time; that the project of a ship canal to enable vessels to pass 
from the Lakes to New York city or beyond without breaking bulk 
was a proper subject for consideration by the Federal government 
but not by New York state ; that the enlargement of the Oswego and 
Champlain canals be completed according to the 1895 project, the 
estimated cost being $2,642,120; that the State should consider two 
projects for enlarging the Erie canal, first, to complete the nine- 
foot deepening of channel but with locks capable of passing boats 
125 feet long, 17J/2 feet wide and of 8 feet draft and 450 tons 
capacity, one of the double locks to pass a single boat and the other 
to pass two boats traveling tandem, and with pneumatic or mechani- 
cal lift locks at Cohoes and Lx)ckport and new locks at Newark and 
Little Falls, a new canal by river canalization between Clyde and 
New London and from Cohoes to Rexford and possibly to Little 
Falls and a new route from Cohoes falls to the Hudson river, this 
project being estimated to cost $21,161,645, ^^^ second, to construct 
a canal along the same route but of sufficient size to carry boats 
150 feet long, 25 feet wide and of 10 feet draft and a cargo capacity 
of 1,000 tons, and with locks about 310 feet long by 28 feet wide, 
this project, estimated to cost $58,894,668, being the one recom- 
mended; that money for the improvements be raised by 18-year 
bonds to be paid by taxes levied on counties bordering the canals, 
the Hudson river and Lake Champlain; for the efficiency of the 
canals that all restrictions as to the amount of capital of canal trans- 
portation companies be removed; that mechanical traction be sub- 
stituted for draft animals and mechanical power for hand power in 
lock operation; that the force of canal operatives be organized on 
a permanent basis; and that unbalanced contract bids be made im- 
possible by a revision of the laws. 

Seeking a Canal Polio's 47 

The Committee in its report sets forth in considerable detail its 
reasons for the recommendations it made. In our present study it 
is n,ot necessary that we should review these discussions. The 
report is readily available to anyone who desires to examine it. It 
is important to know, however, that the arguments and the con- 
clusions seem to have been convincing to the public and to have 
furnished a definite and satisfying policy for the people of the 
state to adopt. The comprehensiveness of the report tended toward 
this result. In addition to these discussions it contained the detailed 
estimates, reports of the engineers, a report on European canals, a 
study of costs of transportation by various sizes of boats and canals, 
copies of correspondence, the minutes of hearings and a valuable 
collection of statistics and canal data. 

The report also discusses at some length the two alternative propo- 
sitions which might have been chosen in place of the one recom- 
mended — one, the abandonment of the State canals and the conse- 
quent dependence solely on railroads, and the other, the building of 
a ship canal. These are questions which we imust comprehend if we 
are to perceive the trend of events and know why the people of the 
state both decided to improve the canals and also determined on the 
barge canal type of improvement. To show by what reasoning the 
Committee arrived at its conclusions in these matters a few excerpts 
have been chosen. 

" The question which now confronts us," says the report, " is 
whether the railroads, with their large capital and scientific manage- 
ment, their durable road beds, powerful locomotives, larger cars, 
greater train loads, greater speed, and more certainty of delivery, 
will be able now or in the early future to reduce the cost of transpor- 
tation below what is possible on the canals. If they can do this, 
then it is obviously unwise and improper to expend any more public 
m,oney upon a method of transportation which, however important 
in the past, would no longer be able to compete with other and 
improved methods. The determination of this question seems to 
us to lie at the very foundation of the canal problem, and we have 
therefore given it the utmost attention." 

After considering the facts carefully the Committee concludes, 
" In our judgment, water transportation is inherently cheaper than 
rail transportation." In further consideration the report says : 

" New York has certain topographical advantages which it would 
be folly not to utilize. Through the valleys of the Hudson and the 
Mohawk and the comparatively low and level lands west of Oneida 
Lake it is possible to construct a water route connecting the Great 

48 History of the Barge Canal 

Lakes and the Atlantic coast, and no such water route can be con- 
structed through any other state. ... If the water route is 
abandoned, then New Yprk must take its chances in the railroad 
competition with Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New- 
port News and Savannah. In this competition it is hardly on an 
equality even, but is subject to many disadvantages; ... It the 
city and State of New York are to take their chances in open rail- 
road competition, then we must inevitably look to see the relative 
proportion of exports through New York constantly decreasing, as 
it has been for the last ten years. 

" It is evident that the water route via the St. Lawrence on the 
one hand, and the short rail lines to Gulf ports on the other, will 
inevitably prove serious competitors in the future to the export trade 
of New York. If it desires to retain its export grain trade, it must 
improve its own water route to the utmost limit of which it is cap- 
able ; it cannot retain this trade by taking its chances in the railroad 
competition of half a dozen routes from the lakes to the Atlantic. 
" It is not alone, however, the export grain trade which requires 

the enlargement of the Erie canal But the changes which 

are now taking place in the iron trade give reason to believe that if 
an adequate waterway can be secured between Lake Erie and the 
Hudson river the center of the iron industry can be brought within 
the state of New York. . . . We believe that a suitable enlarge- 
ment of the Erie canal at the present time is justified by the prospect 
of its use in connection with the manufacture of steel and iron and 
shipbuilding, fully as much as its original construction was justified 
by the prospect of transporting breadstuffs. 

" The possibilities of manufacturing development along the banks 
of the Niagara river between the Falls and Bufl?alo shoidd not be 
overlooked in considering the transportation problem." 
Concerning the ship canal project the Committee says: 
" It seems to us that there are certain insuperable difficulties in the 
way of such a canal ever being a success, no matter by whom con- 
structed. It is intended to be used by a vessel which can navigate the 
ocean, the canal and the lakes. We do not believe that such a vessel 
can be constructed so as to be economically and commercially sus- 
cessful. The ocean steamer is built to withstand the fierce storms of 
the Atlantic, and costs in its most modern type about $71 per net ton 
of carrying capacity.* 

"* Report of Major T. W. Symons, in Report of Chief of Engineers 
U. S. Army for 1897, p. 3174. 

Seeking a Canal Policy 49 

" The vessel to navigate the lakes is built to withstand less frequent 
and dangerous storms; it has less draft, on account of the smaller 
depth of the harbors on the lakes, and it is built much less sub- 
stantially; its cost is about $36 per ton of carrying capacity.! 

" The cost of a canal fleet, consisting of a steamer and three con- 
sorts, with a total cargo capacity of 3,900 tons, according to figures 
furnished us by boat builders, would be $28,500, or $7.31 per ton. 

" We have, then, the difference in first cost between $71, $36 and 
$8 per ton of carrying capacity for the three type of vessels which, 
in the evolution of business, have been produced as the most eco- 
nomical for the particular class of work each has to do. We do not 
believe that it is possible to combine these three types into one vessel, 
which will be as economical for the through trip, as to use the three 
existing types with two changes of cargo, one at Buffalo and one at 
New York, or to use the boat of 1,000 tons' capacity going through 
from the lakes to New York and there transferring its cargo to the 
ocean steamer." 

The Committee gave $62,000,000 as its estimate of cost for carry- 
ing out its recommendations. This is a rounded form of a total of 
$61,536,788, made up of $58,894,668 for enlarging the Erie canal to 
a size suitable for barges of 1,000 tons capacity, and $818,120 for the 
Oswego canal and $1,824,000 for the Champlain canal, each to be 
completed to a nine-foot depth along the line of the improvement 
already begun. The Committee stated that in its opinion the esti- 
mates were sufficiently accurate for submitting the proposition to 
the voters at the next November election, but it advised that in the 
meantime the Legislature appropriate $200,000, to be immediately 
available, so that detailed surveys could be completed during the 
current year, since such surveys were indispensable, so the Commit- 
tee said, to the proper making of contracts. 

Ten days after the Committee on Canals presented its report, or 
on January 25, 1900, the New York Commerce Commission sub- 
mitted to the Governor a voluminous report of about 2,200 pages, 
together with a book of maps. This is the commission which was 
appointed by Governor Black in 1898 to inquire into the causes of the 
decline in New York commerce. The commission had held its hear- 
ings not only in New York state but also in the West and in addition 

" t Ibid, p. 3176. These figures were based on the actual cost of vessels 
constructed between 1893 and 1896. At the present time, owing to the 
increased price of steel, the cost of each would be largely increased." 

50 Hislory of the Barge Canal 

had visited all the important seaports which were business rivals of 
New York city. 

In Governor Roosevelt's message transmitting the Commerce Com- 
mission's report we find several paragraphs pertinent to our study. 
His words are important because they reveal the opinion of a care- 
ful thinker, one who characteristically was incisive in reaching the 
core of things. Moreover he did not let political expediency control 
his honest convictions and was fearless in voicing his opinion. We 
shall see that within the next four years one of the sorest trials of 
canal advocates was the hesitancy of politicians to espouse a cause 
which they feared might be unpopular with some of their constituency 
and so might injure their personal prestige. The Governor sent this 
report and also that of the Committee on Canals to the Legislature on 
the same day. We quote from his message. If one is at aU puzzled 
to know why the canal problem would not down, even after many 
rebuffs, as we shall see later, perhaps he may find the reason in the 
following paragraphs: 

" The Canal Committee of which General Greene is the chairman 
(the report of which I am transmitting at the same time) was 
appointed solely to consider the canal problem. The Commerce Com- 
mission was appointed to consider the whole problem of New York's 
loss of commerce, inquiring into all the causes, and seeking to find 
out all possible remedies. It speedily discovered, however, that the 
question of the canal was really the central question around which 
hinged all others concerned with benefitting the commercial develop- 
ment of New York or arresting the decline of this development. This 
is a further proof, if any be needed, of the immense importance of 
the canal and of the extreme unwisdom of abandoning it as an 
outworn institution. 

" The commission, as of the first importance, recommends action 
on the State canals themselves. They agree with the committee of 
which General Greene is chairman that in the first place, the canals 
cannot be abandoned; that in the second place, a ship canal ought 
not to be built by the State ; and that in the third place, the present 
canal must be enlarged." 

There is another paragraph which we must quote, not because of 
its bearing on the subject immediately in hand but because it helps 
us to understand why, after their nine-million-dollar experience, the 
people were willing to authorize another and vastly larger expend- 
iture. \\^e believe that those who know the facts have come gen- 

Seeking a Canal Policy 5 1 

erally to accept the view expressed here by the Governor. He 

" I desire especially to call your attention to that portion of the 
Commerce Commission's report which shows the main source of the 
trouble over the nine million dollar expenditure for improvements 
under the Act of 1895. The Commerce Commission's report makes 
it perfectly clear that there never was sufficient authority, or indeed 
any authority, for supposing that this nine million dollars would 
be enough to complete the work, and that a sum was named which 
was entirely insufficient. It was doubtless believed to be easier to 
get the small sum than a large one." 

There was no mistaking Governor Roosevelt's position on the 
canal question. New York owes him a debt of gratitude for taking 
the initial step in solving her problem, just as the nation is beholden 
to him for the Panama canal. He concluded his message by saying, 
" Prompt action should be taken to remedy the evils complained of.. 
We cannot afford to rest idle while our commerce is taken away from 
us, and we must act in the broadest and most liberal and most ener- 
getic spirit if we wish to retain the State's commercial supremacy." 

The Commerce Commission reported that the decline in New 
York's commerce had been steady and continuous for many years 
but more pronounced in recent years and had then reached serious 
proportions of actual loss; that, while New York had been steadily 
losing, Montreal, Boston, Baltimore, Newport News, New Orleans 
and Galveston had made substantial gains ; that this loss was due in 
great measure to a discrimination against New York in railroad 
rates imposed by an agreement, known as a differential agreement, 
between trunk line railroads of the Atlantic seaboard, and as a result 
New York was prevented from receiving the benefit of her natural 
advantages ; that this discrimination would be impossible without the 
participation of the New York Central Railroad Company and as this 
company had been the recipient of exceptional benefits from New 
York State its action was particularly culpable ; that the principle of 
differentials is inequitable and unjust both in theory and in practice 
and New York had suffered much therefrom and should use every 
means not only to have it abolished but to render its restoration 
impracticable; that to abolish the differential would not only result 
in New York regaining the commerce then diverted to other ports 
but would also beneffit the producers and exporters of the West ; that 
the demand that the New York Central Railroad withdraw irrevo- 
cably from the differential agreement was made understandingly ; 

52 History of the Barge Canal 

that the State had it within its power through adequate improvement 
of its canal not only to prevent further loss of commerce but also to 
regain that already diverted; that this result could be achieved 
through completing the nine-foot deepening of the canals at an 
expenditure not to exceed fifteen million dollars, but to receive the 
full benefit of thi^ improvement the State should provide canal 
terminals at Buffalo and New York ; and that, while thus providing 
for competition with rail rates sufficiently to render difficult if not 
impossible a discrimination against New York, high port charges in 
New York city should be reduced. 

The Commission made eight recommendations for immediate 
legislative action, as follows: That the canals be completed accord- 
ing to the nine-foot plan without delay, a referendum to authorize 
fifteen millions for the purpose to be submitted to the people at the 
next general election; that canal terminal facilities be provided at 
New York and Buffalo ; that the act regulating the fees and charges 
at elevators be amended so as to make evasion difficult, to fix a max- 
imum rate and to provide a penalty for violation ; that the act limiting 
to fifty thousand dollars the capital stock of corporations carrying 
on a navigation business on the canals be repealed ; that the old pro- 
vision be restored, reserving the canal piers in New York city exclu- 
sively for canal boats ; that an act be passed prohibiting the convey- 
ance in perpetuity of any land under water within the limits of New 
York city, but providing for the lease of such land with power of 
renewal; that legislative authorization should be given each year to 
enable New York city to carry out its plans for the construction of 
piers and the improvement of dock facilities, the city being urged 
speedily to supply the demands of commerce for modern piers, and 
the Legislature to aid such endeavors; and that New York city be 
authorized to acquire possession of the water-front between Ganse- 
voort and Twenty-third streets. 

This commission was appointed to investigate conditions which 
were tmiversally recognized not only as existing but also as being 
detrimental to the interests of both the city and the State of New 
York. As was to be expected it found abundant evidence of these 
conditions and of their detrimental character, but the tenor of its 
conclusions was anything but despairing; rather a compelling opti- 
mism appeared in its vision of what the future would hold if proper 
precautions were taken. We quote some of its words of confidence, 
but they are words of admonition as well. 

Seeking a Canal Policy 53 

" It is within the power of the State," said the Commission, " to 
retain not only her commerce of the present ; to achieve in the future 
not only the supremacy of the past; but to excel all former achieve- 
ments. Her ultimate possibilities can be accomplished only through 
a comprehensive knowledge of the many divergent interests entering 
into commerce and transportation, and a systematic attention to com- 
mercial requirements, not possible of attainment within a limited 
period, nor by a temporary commission, nor by local officials with 
jurisdiction confined alone to either one of the two cities forming 
the termini of her system of water transportation. 

" With a foreign commerce that still approximates one-half of the 
total foreign commerce of the nation, the part of wisdom would dic- 
tate as complete and well considered a method of official supervision" 
as is usual among nations." 



Effect of Canal Committee's Report — Dinner to Governor — Survey Bill 
Passed — Route Described — Engineering Force Organized — Second 
Commerce Convention (1900) Fails to Take Definite Canal Stand — 
Canal Planks in Party Platforms of igoo — Canal Association of Greater^ 
New York Formed — Activities of Canal Bureau of Buffalo Merchants' 
Exchange — Discussions by Engineers — Report on Preliminary Barge 
Canal Survey: Routes and Estimates — Governor' s Transmitting Mes- 
sage— His Recommendation — Reply by Commerce Convention — Baf- 
fling Situation — Compromise Measure Defeated in 1901 Legislature — 
Law Restricting Capitalization of Transportation Companies Repealed — 
Steel Canal Boats Withdrawn — Need of Terminals Illustrated — Canal 
Factions Attempting to Unite — Commerce Convention of 1901 Favors 
Thousand-Ton Canal — ■ Compromise Measure Suggested at Dinner to 
Governor — ■ Governor's 1902 Message Proposes Completing Nine-Foot 
Channel and Building Barge Locks — 1902 Legislature Fails to Pass 
Canal Bill — Legislation Indirectly Affecting Canal Passed — Review of 
Situation — Public Interested in Other Projects — Canal Planks in 1902 
Platforms — • Canal Prominent in Political Campaign — Question Saved 
from Becoming Party Issue — Conference as to Route — Dinner to New 
York Editors — ■ Drafting Canal Bill — Governor Proposes Lake Ontario 

THE presentation of the two reports we have just been con- 
sidering, especially that of the Committe on Canals, made a 
deep impression on the people of the state. The advocates 
of the canal were surprised at the magnitude of the proposal and alsc* 
pleased at the prospect of obtaining a thoroughly modern and ample 
canal, more even than they had dared to hope for. From the enemies 
of the canal on the other hand there came a most determined and 
bitter opposition. This antagonism first showed itself in the legis- 
lative fight on a bill to provide funds for making the survey recomT 
mended by the Committee. While the sum asked in this bill was not 
large and the making of the survey did not of itself commit the State 
to any canal improvement, the opponents seemed to consider that the 
passage of the bill meant the beginning of a radical change in the 
canal policy of the State, which would probably result in an enormous 
expenditure for a new canal of greatly increased size. Accordingly 
they fought the measure desperately. 


Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 55 

It was in January, 1900, that the report of the Committee on 
Canals gave to the State a definite canal policy — the desideratum, 
by the way, which Governor Roosevelt had suggested in his letter 
of appointment. It was not till April 7, 1903, that the Governor 
signed the referendum which gave to the people the opportunity of 
deciding whether the Barge canal should be built. The period 
between, except for the preliminary survey, was largely one of either 
legislative battles or of attempts on the part of canal advocates to 
unite on a single plan of action. It is to this field of activity, then, 
that we must look for the canal history of these years. 

Soon after the presentation of the Canal Committee's report vari- 
ous bills were prepared authorizing canal improvement, but after 
further consideration and a conference with the Governor these 
were dropped for the session. It was decided, however, to attempt 
to secure $200,000 for making the survey proposed by the Commit- 
tee. Accordingly a bill for this purpose was introduced in the 
Assembly by Henry W. Hill, chairman of the Assembly canal com- 
mittee, on March 6, 1900, and in the Senate by Henry Marshall on 
March 8. Immediately opposition became manifest in both branches 
of the Legislature. The situation was still further complicated by 
the introduction in the Assembly on March 7 of a resolution propos- 
ing to amend the Constitution so as to enable the State to transfer 
its canals to the Federal government. The press took up the fight 
and was divided in sentiment. 

But before following further the fate of this bill let us look for a 
moment at the dinner tendered Governor Roosevelt by the leading 
commercial organizations of the city of New York. It was held at 
the Waldorf on March 10, 1900, and besides the Governor there 
were present as guests of honor the members of the Committee on 
Canals and the Commerce Commission. The dinner was given in 
recognition of the Governor's friendly attitude toward canal interests 
and also in appreciation of the services rendered to the State by the 
two committees. It was reported that 460 prominent business men 
of the city and the state were present and that they represented 
nearly all the commercial bodies of the city. 

This gathering was important because it helped to bring into a 
united body of canal advocates the large number of influential men 
in attendance and also because it stimulated wide-spread interest 
in the proposed canal improvements. It is said that it decided the 
fate of the survey bill then pending in the Legislature. 

56 History of the Barge Canal 

The occasion was important too because of certain things that 
were said. The Governor in his remarks showed himself in favor 
of a suitable canal improvement and pointed out the need of keep- 
ing several vital features in view. He declared that the proposed 
scheme was the only one that offered an adequate check on the 
railroads which then did or which could show their mastery over 
commerce, but he warned that the very vastness of the scheme 
demanded the most careful preparation, in order not to repeat the 
mistakes of former efforts. He counseled thorough and ardent 
missionary work to make the people of the state feel the necessity 
of doing what was proposed; also the need of keeping steadily in 
mind the all-important fact that the canal is not an outworn method 
of transportation, experience having proved that during the life- 
time of the present generation every great European country in 
which topographic conditions permitted the existence of canals had 
developed its canal system to a greater extent than its railroad system. 
He urged the elimination of party division, since the questions 
involved were purely economic, and he declared that the only chance 
of building the canal so that the State would receive a dollar's worth 
of gain for every dollar expended lay in building it on strictly busi- 
ness principles and not allowing it to become the football of partisan, 
factional or personal politics — those who should build and admin- 
ister it doing their duty solely as administrators and engineers and 
not as politicians. 

Returning to the survey bill we find that its passage through the 
Legislature was most stormy. It is said that probably no bill was 
ever fought more bitterly. It will be interesting and instructive, 
therefore, to follow this battle. The usual hearings were supple- 
mented by a flood of letters, resolutions, petitions and memorials 
from various parts of the state, but still the bill was not reported out 
of committee and it seemed for a time that it was dead. In the 
closing days of the session a last and apparently a forlorn effort to 
pass the measure was made. 

The Senate Finance committee by a vote of six to six had refused 
to report the bill, but Senator Ellsworth, chairman of the Rules 
committee, reported a rule which brought it out and on the day before 
adjournment under his able leadership, supported by Senator Grady, 
it was pushed through to successful passage. 

When the bill reached the Assembly it was referred to the Rules 
committee, which was opposed to canal improvement and already 
had under consideration the similar bill introduced by Assemblyman 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 57 

Hill. The canal vote in the Assembly was not sufficient to discharge 
the committee from further consideration of the bill, but during 
the night preceding and the morning of adjournment the committee 
was deluged with letters and telegrams. The Speaker stood with 
the opposition on this matter and refused to let the bill come before 
the Assembly. It was only by various organizations working through 
United States Senator Thomas C. Piatt that sufficient pressure was 
brought to bear to have the bill reported. After the clock had been 
turned back the Rules committee finally reported the bill and it was 

The action of these closing days had been most dramatic. The 
fight in the Assembly is said to have been one of the most strenuous 
ever witnessed in that body. To Henry W. Hill is due much of the 
credit for the victory. If this legislative battle was one of the. 
bitterest ever fought in the state, then the measure itself, so canal 
men think, because of its far-reaching influence, was one of the most 
important to the State ever enacted. 

With the signature of the Governor on April 12 the act became 
chapter 411 of the laws of 1900. It directed the State Engineer 
to make the necessary surveys and estimates for constructing and 
improving the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals substantially in 
accordance with the recommendations of the Committee on Canals. 
By specific requirement all surveys, plans and estimates were to be 
made with the same accuracy and as much care as if the work of 
construction had actually been ordered. All was to be done in time 
to report to the Legislature at the beginning of the 1901 session. 

The improvement contemplated for the Oswego canal was in effect 
the completion of the nine-foot deepening, while for the Champlain 
canal the plans were to provide for a depth of seven feet of water. 

In planning the Erie canal provision was to be made for the pas- 
sage of boats 150 feet long, 25 feet wide and of 10 feet draft, with 
a cargo capacity of approximately 1,000 tons. The minimum dimen- 
sions of prism were to be 75 feet bottom width, 1,125 square feet 
sectional area and 12 feet depth of water except at structures, where 
it might be lessened to 11 feet. The locks were to be not less than 
310 feet long in the clear, 28 feet wide, with 11 feet of water over 
the sills and a capacity for passing at one lockage two boats of the 
size mentioned in the act. 

Inasmuch as the route of the prescribed surveys differed in many 
places from the line of the existing canal, it is well to examine its 
course with some care, especially since the canal as it was eventually 

58 History of the Barge Canal 

built follows in general this new route. In the western part of the 
state the existing line was to be used except at certain specified 
places. These changes included a short section of new canal at 
Medina and the elimination of two bends near South Greece. At 
Rochester three routes were to be surveyed — through the city along 
the existing canal, to the north of the city and to the south of the 
city. At Brighton, Macedon, Newark and Lyons short changes of 
alignment and the elimination or combining of locks were to be 
made. Easterly from Clyde the survey" was to leave the existing 
canal and follow the valley of Crusoe creek and then proceed through 
Seneca river, Oneida river and Oneida lake and up the valley of 
Wood creek to New London, where the existing canal line was again 
encountered. This was a divergence differing in some places by a 
distance of about fourteen miles from the line of the existing canal. 
A spur was to reach Syracuse through Onondaga lake. Between 
Rome and Cohoes estimates were to be made for enlarging the exist- 
ing canal and also for canalizing the Mohawk river. Also certain 
modifications and details were specified at Utica, Fort Herkimer, 
Little Falls and Schoharie creek and between Cohoes and the Hudson 
river and for locks at Cohoes falls, Newark and Lockport. 

The task laid out by this law was exceedingly large and the time 
for accomplishing it was short. State Engineer Edward A. Bond 
lost no time, therefore, in organizing a corps of engineers to under- 
take the work. In fact the first steps were taken on April 8, two 
days after the bill was passed and four days before it was signed. 
By the first of May parties were in the field, the engineers to have 
charge of various divisions of the work having been appointed and 
instructions for survey parties having been prepared and passed 
upon by a special board of engineers prior to that time. 

^Ir. Bond is to be highly commended for the type of engineers 
he secured and for the quality and thoroughness of all the work 
done. He was fortunate too in the selection of his advisory engi- 
neers and also of certain experts in special features. What he said 
concerning this survey in his current annual report shows that he 
appreciated the importance of carrying out the mandate of the Legis- 
lature in a manner that would be beyond criticism or reproach. To 
quote his v.-ords: 

" The report upon this survey will be exhaustive, and will include 
the results of studies by specialists in all the different features 
involved in the design of a modern canal ; it being the intention of 
the State Engineer that the plans for this work shall be so thoroughly 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 59 

considered and that the estimates of cost for its various portions 
shall be agreed upon by so many well-known and experienced engi- 
neers . . . that they shall command the confidence of the public 
and will enable the Legislature and the people of the State to form a 
full and unbiased judgment as to the desirability of building this 
great canal." * 

Mr. Bond appointed as consulting engineers Trevor C. Leutze, of 
Albany (division engineer of the eastern division of his department), 
and David J. Howell, of Washington, D. C., who had had charge of 
work on the eastern division of the Mohawk and' Oswego line of the 
Deep Waterways Survey, with Mr. Howell acting as engineer in 
charge of the survey about to be undertaken. William B. Landreth 
was assigned to the position of special resident engineer in charge of 
the middle division and James J. Overn to that of special resident 
engineer in charge of the western division, while to John R. Kaley, 
assistant engineer, (at one time division engineer of the eastern 
division of the State canals) was assigned the task of preparing 
from notes acquired through previous improvements the estimates 
for the Champlain canal. 

The instructions for survey parties were submitted to a board 
of engineers consisting of George S. Greene, of New York city, 
Past President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, George 
Y. Wisner, of Detroit, Mich., Edward P. North, of JSfew York 
city. Professor Palmer C. Ricketts, of Rensselaer Pol)rtechnic Insti- 
tute, Troy, N. Y., and J. Nelson Tubbs, of Rochester, N. Y. 

The questions concerning high lift locks were submitted to a 
board of advisory engineers and this board included Elnathan Sweet, 
ex-State Engineer, chairman, George S. Morrison, a member of 
the Isthmian Canal Commission and Past President of the American 
Society of Civil Engineers, Major Thomas W. Symons, Corps of 
Engineers, U. S. Army, a member of the New York State Com- 
mittee on Canals, William H. Burr, a member of the Isthmian 
Canal Commission and a professor in Columbia University, and 
Major Dan C. Kingman, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army. 

After this board had made its report on the high lift locks, the 
members with one exception were retained as a general advisory 
board. Major Kingman, who was stationed at Chattanooga, Tenn., 
and could not conveniently continue as a member because of the 
long travel required, tendered his resignation and Alfred Noble, of 
Chicago, a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission and also 

♦Report of State Engineer for 1900, p. 11. 

60 History of the Barge Canal 

one of the three engineers comprising the Board of Engineers on 
U. S. Deep Waterways, was added as a new member. 

Other engineers to fill important positions were Emil Kuichling, 
who made the investigations for water-supply, James H. Brace, 
who had supervision of office work, A. E. Broennknan, an expert 
computer, who had charge of estimates along the existing canal 
from Rexford to the Herkimer-Oneida county fine, J. T. N. Hoyt, 
who estimated the bridges, S. J. Chapleau, who estimated the locks, 
and Chauncey N. Button and William R. Davis, who submitted 
plans for locks of high mechanical lift. 

The field work of the United States Deep Waterways survey had 
preceded this preliminary Barge canal survey by only two or three 
years and several of the engineers who had been engaged on the 
former project were available for the new survey. Both enter- 
prises inyolved the same kinds of work and the men fresh from the 
first were especially fitted to undertake the second with despatch 
and vigor. The field work was pushed so rapidly that by Sep- 
tember 8 it had been finished on the middle division and by the 
latter part of the same month on the western division. The office 
work of making maps from the field notes had been carried along 
continuously with the surveys and by October i the middle division 
office was closed and a week later the western division office and 
such men as were suitable were transferred to the office of the 
consulting engineers at Albany, where the work of making plans 
and computations was carried on to completion. By the courtesy of 
the Deep \^'^aterways Board photographic copies of the maps pre- 
pared from the earlier surveys were made available and these 
aided materially in the new work, many miles of surveys and 
mapping being saved thereby. 

^^'hile the engineers were busy doing their part, canal advocates 
were not idle. The success of their efforts in the legislative strife 
gave new life to their enthusiasm. The opponents of the canal 
were also very active, all over the state. Through their grange 
organization the farmers were bitterly fighting all canal improve- 
ment. The railroads were doing everything they could, both 
openly and secretly, to defeat the project. One railroad emissary 
was especially prominent during the years between the failure of 
the nine-million scheme and the early stages of Barge canal con- 
struction. This was John I. Piatt of Poughkeepsie. But he fought 
in the open, often was a delegate to the canal and commerce con- 
ventions and sometimes was invited to address these conventions 
and express his views in opposition. 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 61 

The second annual State Commerce Convention met in Syracuse 
on June 6 and 7, 1900. A larger number of delegates attended 
than were present at the convention of the year before at Utica 
and it is said that the feature of the convention was the unanimity 
of sentiment in fav.or of canal improvement. There was a pro- 
nounced division of opinion, however, as to what that improveiment 
should be. 

The State Committee on Canals, it will be recalled, had placed 
two projects before the people — one a modification of the nine- 
foot deepening and the other a 1,000-ton barge canal. The Com- 
mittee had come out boldly and in most decided terms had recom- 
mended the latter scheme, but it was evident at the Commerce 
Convention that the majority of delegates lacked the courage to 
take an equally bold stand. Or perhaps it was faith that they 
lacked, the faith to believe that the people of the state were ready 
to solve their transportation problem by building an adequate 
rather than a make-shift canal, and so they were going to be 
satisfied with a half loaf, lest otherwise they might get nothing. 

The New York city delegates at this convention stood almost 
alone in their advocacy of the larger plan and in the end they 
were beaten. It is true, as one member of the committee on reso- 
lutions has said, that the most serious problem before the conven- 
tion was the form pf endorsement which should be given to the 
canal project, and also that it was a delicate matter to decide in 
advance of the surveys then being made what action was wise, 
but in the light of subsequent events it seems probable that the 
building of the Barge canal was delayed one and possibly two 
years by the failure, not of this convention alone — it merely 
reflected a prevailing sentiment — but of canal and political leaders 
generally to appreciate what the situation demanded and then to 
act upon their conviction. 

The convention adjourned to meet again after the State Engi- 
neer should make his report to the Legislature. The canal resolu- 
tion it adopted was simply a spineless declaration " that the future 
prosperity of the entire State requires the improvement and en- 
largement of its canals in a manner commensurate with the demands 
of commerce and to a capacity suiificient to compete with all rival 

The convention proved effective, however, in giving publicity to 
the canal question and in keeping it a live issue in the state. The 
delegates from interior towns carried back with them to their 
several localities new interest in canal affairs. Also this conven- 

62 History of the Barge Canal 

tion appointed a catnmittee to appear before both the Republican 
and the Democratic State conventions and urge the insertion in their 
respective platforms of a plank favoring canal improvement. 

There was another organization which helped to secure canal 
planks in the party platforms of 1900. A delegation from the 
canal committee of the New York Produce Exchange called upon 
the political leaders to urge the importance of their views. Both 
parties heeded these appeals and adopted canal planks. The Repub- 
lican plank was constructive in standing for a full study of the 
canal problem. The Democratic plank denounced Republican canal 
administration and pledged support for the canals, but only in 
general terms. 

During 1900 there was formed a most important canal organi- 
zation, the Canal Association of Greater New York, representatives 
of ten of the leading commercial organizations of New York city 
being present at the initial meeting and nearly an equal number of 
organizations joining later. Organized for the purpose of forward- 
ing canal interests, it did valiant service in the next three years — 
a most critical period in State canal history. By means of piiblic 
meetings, press articles and the distribution of literature it carried 
on a lively and persistent agitation for canal improvement. After 
the election in the fall of 1900 a committee from this association 
called upon Governor-elect Odell and laid before him their views 
on the subject of improving and enlarging the State canals. 

In the canal agitation which has been going on since 1884 — the 
year from which the present era of consecutive improvements may 
be dated — the centers of aggressive activity have been New York 
city and Buffalo. We have seen something of what New York was 
doing in 1900, but Buffalo also was busy. 

A committee was appointed by the Buffalo Merchants' Exchange 
to imdertake a systematic and thorough campaign of education. 
Under this committee there was organized what was known as the 
Canal Bureau of the Merchants' Exchange, with George Qinton 
as chairman, George H. Raymond as secretary and Howard J. 
Smith as assistant secretary. The credit for raising the funds to 
finance this bureau, which continued its work from 1900 to Novem- 
ber, 1903, is due chiefly to Alfred Haines, President of the Ex- 
change. To prepare the way for proposed legislation at the 1901 
session a dozen stenographers and other office force were employed 
and they were engaged largely in sending out to all parts of the 
state an enormous number of letters, circulars and printed matter. 
Also newspapers were furnished with articles and especial attention 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 63 

was given to country newspapers, about 200 country weeklies being 
supplied with " plate." Moreover meetings were arranged and 
speakers were sent to address them, and this form of campaign was 
extended particularly into anti-canal localities. The object of all 
this was to make it possible for the people of the state to have a 
thorough understanding of vifhat the 1,000-ton barge canal really 
meant to them, how the commercial interests would be affected by 
it and how even the farmer and the inhabitants of the counties at 
a distance from the canal would be benefitted. 

All of this publicity on the part of canal advocates naturally 
resulted in discussions which brought out both sides of the question. 
We find numerous canal articles in the technical and popular 
periodicals of this year, 1900, and also of the next few years. 
As an evidence of the interest the subject awakened among pro- 
fessional men of high standing it may be said that in the October, 
November and December, 1900, and the February, 1901, pro- 
ceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers appear papers 
and their subsequent discussions on canal topics. One, entitled 
" Canals between the Lakes and New York," was presented by 
Joseph Mayer, and another, " Economic Dimensions for a Water- 
way from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic," was presented by 
George Y. Wisner. 

In his annual message to the Legislature of 1901, at the beginning 
of his administration, Governor Odell did not give the slightest hint 
of his attitude on canals, merely stating that he would defer making 
any recommendations until the forthcoming report should be 

This report, the result of the survey for the proposed 1,000-ton 
barge canal, was presented to the Governor by the State Engineer 
on February 12, 1901. The Governor in turn transmitted it to 
the Legislature on the 15th day of the following month. Together 
with this report was another which the State Engineer had prepared 
at the request of the Governor and which contained estimates of 
cost for completing the improvements begun under the law of 1895, 
the act which authorized the expenditure of nine million dollars 
in deepening the canals. In his message accompanying these reports 
the Governor plainly showed his opposition to the barge canal 
project and proposed instead the completion of the partially finished 

But before considering the Governor's message we shall look for 
a little while at the State Engineer's report of his survey — the 
report of the preliminary Barge canal survey, as it has now come to 

64 HUiory of the Barge Canal 

be known. In its printed form this report consisted of a volume of 
I020 pages and an atlas supplement containing 35 plates of maps, 
profiles, plans and diagrams. Considered from an engineering 
standpoint this report left little to be desired, and requests for copies 
of it, coming from engineers who wish to use its valuable data 
in the design of other projects, has continued down to the present 
day, although the edition was exhausted very soon after its publi- 
cation. In addition to the descriptions and estimates in detail of 
the various routes and the many alternate portions of routes, the 
volume contains the reports of the State Engineer, the Consultir^ 
Engineers, the Board of Engineers on high lift locks and the Engi- 
neer on a mechanical lift lock, also a study on tractive resistance to 
be overcome in navigating the restricted channel of a canal, a copy 
of the instructions for survey parties and the report of the Engi- 
neer for Water Supply, the latter occupying 350 pages and contain- 
ing especially valuable information. 

In reporting on the cost of the proposed 1,000-ton canal the State 
Engineer gave four sets of figures and these represented the esti- 
mates on an equal number of possible routes. At certain places 
several alternate surveys had been made, so as to determine the best 
location, but these minor selections had been made by the engineers 
and only the four main lines appear in the sxmimary of costs. These 
four routes for the Erie canal are denominated in the report as 
lines A, B, C and D. 

Line A was in general a canaUzation of natural waterways as far 
west as Clyde (the Mohawk river. Wood creek, Oneida lake, 
Oneida river and Seneca river being utilized) and an enlargement 
of the existing canal from Clyde westward to Buffalo except a 
detour south of Rochester. This brief description, however, does 
not take account of the many places where the proposed line entered 
and left the stream channels and the existing canal, or where bends 
were cut across or other deviations made. 

Line B coincided with line A from the Hudson river to Three 
River Point, the hamlet at the confluence of Oneida and Seneca 
rivers. Thence it followed Oswego river to Lake Ontario. Leav- 
ing the lake at Olcott it rejoined line A a little west of Lockport and 
coincided with it again for the remainder of the route. 

Line C was the same as line B except that Lake Ontario was 
utilized to the mouth of Niagara river and lower Niagara river 
was followed to Lewiston and the upper river from LaSalle to 
Black Rock with a new canal between Lewiston and LaSalle. 
According to the law authorizing the survey the Oswego canal was 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 65 

to be improved only to the extent of completing the nine-foot deep- 
ening, but in making it a part of a possible new Erie, or main line, 
canal it was necessary to plan for a 12-foot channel. As a result 
two estimates were made for the Oswego canal, one for a nine- 
foot and the other for a twelve-foot depth. 

Two estimates were made for the Champlain canal also, but 
these were for two choices of route, one the canalization of the 
Hudson river and the other the improvement of the existing canal, 
which was almost entirely an independent, or land line channel. 

Line D was generally an enlargement of the existing Erie canal. 
Aside from the portion between New London (a few miles west 
of Rome) and Clyde, where it coincided with line A, the devia- 
tions in alignment from the existing canal, though numerous, were 
not long. 

Line A (Erie canal) was estimated to cost $72,264,826. With 
$1,481,012 for the nine-fo.ot Oswego branch and $4,750,608 for 
the Champlain by way of the Hudson, the total for construction by 
this route was $78,496,446. From this might be deducted the 
estimated value of abandoned canal lands, $1,941^380 on the Erie 
and $22,620 on the 'Champlain, leaving a net total of $76,532,446 
for line A. The distance between Troy and BuiTalo by this route 
was 342.66 miles. 

The estimate by line B between Troy and Buflfalo was $46,765,- 
755, exclusive of the Oswego canal. Adding $5,170,129 for the 
Oswego branch, which by line B became a part of the Erie canal 
and had to be 12 feet deep, and $4,750,608 for the Champlain (can- 
aHzed Hudson), the total became $56,686,492. The land values to 
be deducted were, Erie, $11,953,202, Oswego, $2,391, Champlain, 
$22,620, making the net total $54,708,279. 'By line B the distance 
between Troy and Buffalo was 338.66 miles. 

The estimate for line C differed frdm that of line B only in 
the cost of the Erie canal, which was $48,984,220. This made the 
total for construction $58,904,957 and the net total $56,926,7/^4. 
From Troy to Buffalo by line C was 347.57 miles. 

By Hne D the Erie canal would cost $81,578,854. The nine-foot 
Oswego would add $1,481,012 and the Champlain improvement of 
the existing canal $5,787,929, totaling $88,847,795 for construction. 
Deducting $1,530,225 for abandoned Erie canal lands, there being 
none to abandon on the Oswego and Champlain branches under this 
plan, the net total became $87,317,570. This line gave a distance of 
347.66 miles between Troy and Buffalo. 


66 History of the Barge Canal 

In all of these estimates it was assumed that the Federal gov- 
ernment would improve the Hudson river from Troy to Water- 
ford, estimated to cost $737,683, and the Niagara river from Black 
Rock harbor to Buffalo, estimated at $538,051. Without this Fed- 
eral aid the siun of these two amounts, $1,275,734, was to be added 
to all totals. 

In estimating the amount of work to be done there was used a 
minimum land line section of 75 feet bottom width with 12 feet 
depth of water and slopes to give 123 feet width at water-surface. 
In rock cutting the channel was 94 feet wide at bottom and the 
sides nearly vertical. The river channels, in both earth and rock 
excavation, were 200 feet wide at the bottom. The locks were 
planned with a length of 328 feet between quoins, a width of 28 
feet and a depth of ii feet of water over the bottom at the ends. 
The chambers of the locks, however, had curved floors, which 
were 11 feet below water-surface at the side wall intersections and 
18 inches deeper at the center. In locks of over 8 feet lift ctij- 
verts for filling and emptying the locks were provided in the side 
walls. From these culverts there extended smaller branches, or 
ports, which entered the lock chamber at the bottom of the side 

These details are all of considerable interest and also rather 
important, since they explain why certain dimensions or particular 
types of construction were later incorporated in the law or adopted 
in the contract plans. An innovation in one certain kind of material 
is noteworthy. Up to this time, on State work at least, but few 
sizable masonry structures had been composed of concrete. In the 
new lock plans the only cut stone was at the hollow quoins and in 
the face of the lift, or breast, wall at the head of the chamber. The 
report left the subject of dams in a somewhat uncertain state. In 
general concrete dams were to be built where rock foundation was 
encountered and timber dams where gravel or other kindred 
material was found, but definite plans were not drawn, although 
the estimated cost was placed at a sum ample for whatever type 
later experience might dictate. Movable dams were discussed by 
the Advisory Board but no decision reached. 

The Governor's message transmitting the report on the Barge 
canal survey must have been a bitter disappointment to advanced 
canal advocates. Not only did he opf)ose the project recommended 
so heartily by the Committee on Canals, but he even went a step 
back of the smaller scheme presented by this Committee, and this 
smaller scheme had been submitted by the Committee not to endorse 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 67 

it but simply as a possible subject for consideration. What the 
Governor did was to recommend the completion of the nine-foot 
deepening, and that too with provision for boats only 98 feet long, 
I7}i feet wide, of 7 or 7^ feet draft, and of 315 to 340 tons 
capacity. The plan for the nine- foot deepening presented by the 
Canal Committee, it will be recalled, carried with it a lock modifica- 
tion to enable two boats, each 125 feet in length, lyy^ feet in width 
and 8 feet in draft, with a cargo capacity of 450 tons, to travel 
tandem and be locked at a single lockage without uncoupling. What 
the Committee said in regard to this their smaller proposition, even 
back of which the Governor was going, is pertinent here. 

" In our judgment," says the Committee's report, " arrived at after 
long consideration, and with some reluctance, the State should 
undertake the larger project (1,000- ton canal) on the ground that 
the smaller one is at best a temporary make-shift, and that the 
larger project will permanently secure the commercial supremacy 
of New York, and that this can be assured by no other means." 
And again : " We believe it is unwise to spend large sums of money 
in a mere betterment of the existing canal ; what the present situation 
requires is a radical change." 

The State Engineer's estimate for completing the canals accord- 
ing to the 1895 plan, as reported by the Governor, was $19,797,828, 
the amount for the Erie being $14,973,323, that for the Oswego, 
$2,135,388, and that for the Champlain, $2,689,117. The Governor 
suggested that it (might be possible, by lock-lengthening and similar 
changes, to use larger boats and secure more expeditious locking, 
evidently referring to the smaller project submitted by the Canal 
Committee. In this case several millions more should be added to 
the estimate. 

In his message the Governor put the canal problem before the 
Legislature in the form of a three-fold question — " First, shall the 
canals be abandoned? Second, shall they be enlarged so as to per- 
mit the passage of 1,000-ton barges? Third, shall the improvement 
begun under the act of 1895 be continued along the line of the route 
of both the Erie canal and its feeders ? " 

Neither the people of the state nor the Legislature had as yet, 
of course, given a categorical answer to these questions, but the 
people a few years earlier had twice expressed their desire for im- 
provement rather than abandonment. And now, if nothing beyond 
the scheme of 1895 was to be undertaken, the years of investigating 
and waiting, the elaborate surveys and plans of Federal and State 

68 HkioTX) of the Barge Canal 

governments, the herculean struggle and brilliant victory of canal 
legislators in the preceding session had all been in vain. 

The Governor argued the subject at considerable length, evidently 
to his own satisfaction, and arrived at two conclusions : That the 
advantages to be derived from a i,ooo-ton canal were not commen- 
surate with the expense; and that the purposes for which the 
canals should be maintained were more for protection against unfair 
rate discrimination than for actual use. In reading the message, 
however, one is inclined to think that the latter conclusion was not 
really a conclusion with the Governor but rather was a premise 
which molded, vmconsciously perhaps, his whole reasoning. If that 
was his idea of the chief value of the canals, and we fear that it 
has been for years an all too prevalent idea throughout the state at 
large, then his search after the cheapest way to retain the canals 
for any degree of service was at least consistent and can be vmder- 

The Governor said, moreover, that there seemed to be no excuse 
for the Legislature to delay in submitting the matter to the people, 
since a large proportion of the citizens evidently desired positive 
action. In his closing words he summed up the situation as he 
saw it. We quote him: 

" I therefore recommend that the question of improving the canals 
along the line of the act of 1895 be submitted to the people at the 
coming election, in the belief that it will meet with greater approval, 
that the expenditure can be more easily met, and that it will serve 
all the purposes for which the canal was originally designed." 

This recommendation, of course, immediately aroused the canal 
advocates. On the day after its presentation a meeting of the canal 
committee of the Buffalo Merchants' Exchange, at which there was 
manifested decided opposition to the Governor's plan, appointed a 
committee to meet with canal friends from other cities and map out 
a course of action. This conference was held in Albany on March 
20 and representatives were present from New York, Catskill, Utica, 
Oswego and Buffalo. 

On ^larch 26 the adjourned meeting of the State Commerce Con- 
vention met in Syracuse. This meeting is described as being even 
more enthusiastic than the two previous conventions and as showing 
conclusively from the attitude of the delegates that the fight for 
adequate canal improvement was now fairly on and that no com- 
promise or defeat would be permitted. It is said, however, that 
serious differences of opinion were stiU present, as at the convention 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 69 

of the summer before, and that the Buffalo delegates tried to prevent 
a declaration for a i,ocK>-ton canal. 

We have looked with some care at the message the Governor sent 
to the Legislature in presenting the report of the canal survey. The 
resolutions of the Syracuse convention demand equally careful atten- 
tion, since they are in effect a partial answer to the Governor's argu- 
ments and also they show how irreconcilably opposed to the Gov- 
ernor were these representatives of the commercial interests from 
various parts of the state. 

The resolutions declared that the State canal system was the first 
great factor in the growth of the state, that it had been the chief 
means of building up the greatest line of prosperous cities and 
villages found anywhere on the continent, that it made New York 
one of the greatest seaports and Buffalo one of the greatest lake 
ports, and that this growth had brought signal benefits to all classes, 
the laborer, the farmer and the merchant, in all lines of commercial 

These were statements calculated to controvert the Governor's 
conclusion that the chief function of the canal was regulative. Then 
the resolution takes up and emphasizes this view of the Governor, 
but intimates that it is not the most eminent service of the canal, 
saying that " in addition to its direct influence upon the prosperity of 
the State " the canal had been such a factor in controlling freight 
rates that nowhere else on the continent were rates of transportation 
by both rail and water so moderate as in New York. 

Because of its bold challenge the remainder of the resolution 
should be quoted verbatim. " The condition of the canal system of 
the State," it says, " is most critical. The present and future com- 
mercial prosperity of the State is in great danger. Adequate 
improvement of the canals must be undertaken. Largely increased 
facilities for water transportation must be secured if the State's com- 
mercial supremacy is to be maintained; therefore, 

"Resolved, That it is the sense of this convention that the com- 
mercial interests of the State will be best fostered, promoted and 
protected by the construction of the one thousand ton barge canal." 

The convention also sent a committee to confer with the Governor. 
They called on him on March 29, but their appeal was in vain. He 
stood squarely for the improvement he had recommended and was 
not disposed to accept anything looking toward the 1,000-ton canal. 

Probably at no time during the history of the Barge canal project 
have conditions been so peculiar as they were at this juncture. The 
Governor was obdurate. In disregard of the emphatic recommenda- 

70 History of the Barge Canal 

tions of a body of expert investigators, who had been chosen because 
of their ability to render an unbiased and sound verdict, he stood 
firmly for an improvement which had been first proposed a genera- 
tion before and was generally considered obsolete. The dominant 
political party feared to endorse the obviously adequate plan because 
of the opposition of much of its constituency and at the same time 
was reluctant to accept the Governor's proposition and thereby dis- 
please New York city. The minority party was in almost the same 
predicament. Canal forces were divided and so wide apart were 
they that we find the radicals lined up with the enemies of the canals 
in legislative contests. The only happy individuals were the canal 
opponents. Not for a decade had the prospect been so bright for 
defeating all canal improvement in the state. 

After numerous conferences the canal men from Buffalo and from 
" up state " and a part of those from New York decided to make a 
fight for what they thought there might be some possibility of 
getting. This was a compromise measure — practically the smaller 
proposition presented by the State Committee on Canals, except that 
the Oswego canal was to have as large locks as the Erie. It was a 
completion of the nine-foot deepening but with lock modifications 
which would increase boat capacities to 450 tons. A bill authorizing 
this improvement and carrying an appropriation of $26,000,000 was 
introduced in both branches of the Legislature. 

This bill brought protests from various organizations, among them 
the State Grange, the State Farmers' Congress and the State Tax 
and Transfer Tax Reform Association. The protest from the Canal 
Association of Greater New York, however, calls for our special 
attention, because it was this wing of the canal forces, aligned with 
the enemies, that decided the fate of the bill then pending and 
eventually also the ultimate fate of the whole canal problem. This 
association, moreover, exerted a political power that had to be 
reckoned with. 

On April 8 this association adopted resolutions unequivocally 
declaring its belief that the 1,000-ton canal was the minimum of 
improvement that should be undertaken and that the expenditure 
of public funds for any lesser project was unwise. The framers of 
the resolutions state that they would be stvdtifying themselves in 
accepting or recommending acceptance of any improvement that 
failed to meet the requirements, and that they were asserting their 
beliefs, not in a spirit of capricious or unreasonable criticism but in 
full consciousness that the gravity of the situation demanded a larger 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 71 

rather than a smaller development, and that it was their duty not 
only to themselves but to those whom they represented to make 
their position known to the Governor, the members of the Legisla- 
ture, the commercial bodies throughout the state and the public at 

Seventeen of the most influential commercial organizations of New 
York city joined in signing these resolutions. As a further act they 
directed the chairman of the meeting to telegraph the senators and 
assemblymen from Greater New York, urging them to vote against 
the pending canal bill. 

Incorporated in these resolutions were two excerpts from the 
report of the State Committee on Canals. We have already quoted 
one of these passages. The other is worth noticing and we quote 
further. The policy here enunciated is the one for which the New 
York city advocates were standing firm, even with the certainty of 
delay and at the risk of losing all. But it is the policy which pre- 
vailed finally. In the end all friends of the canal conceded that New 
York city's insistence on a i,ooo-ton canal was wise. While the 
fight was on it was another matter. 

" We confine ourselves," say the members of the State Canal Com- 
mittee, " solely to advising you what in our judgment is the proper 
policy for the State to pursue in regard to its canals, leaving to those 
on whom the responsibility rests to decide whether these views 
should be carried into effect. We feel confident that on mature 
reflection the Legislature and people of the State will ultimately 
adopt these views. We have hesitated to recommend the expendi- 
ture of a sum of money which, although small in proportion to the 
resources of the State, is still a very great sum; but after much 
deliberation we are unwilling to recommend any temporary or partial 
settlement of the canal question. We do not believe that the adop- 
tion of the smaller plan will result in permanent benefit to the State 
of New York, and as the money expended on the smaller project 
would be almost entirely wasted in case a larger project should be 
determined upon later on, we do not feel justified in recommending 
the expenditure of so large a sum as $21,000,000 for a temporary 

With canal forces divided and a part of them even siding with the 
anti-canal faction and with the opponents making the most of their 
opportunity, there could be but one result. The fight was kept up 
for a time, a hearing being held and the bill being reported out of 
committees and reaching the stage of third reading in the Senate and 

72 History of the Barge Canal 

second reading in the Assembly, but when the Tammany assembly- 
men withdrew their support the fate of the measture was sealed. 

After a long conference of the Republican legislators in the Exec- 
utive Chamber it was finally decided to recommit the bill with 
instructions to strike out the enacting clause. 

Something which one of the senators said at this conference 
deserves a wide publicity and we quote it here. It was Senator 
George E. Green who was speaking and what he said may help us 
to understand why certain localities, even those which might be 
expected to have pro-canal proclivities, have so persistently opposed 
various canal improvements. It will be recalled that Senator Green 
was a member of the State Canal Committee and that he is said to 
have entered on his work with this Committee an anti-canal man. In 
the speech just referred to he said : " I come from an anti-canal 
Senate district. I want to say that we legislators are to blame for 
this anti-canal sentiment. We go around our districts inveighing 
against the canals for political effect and our statements have their 
effect upon the people. Hereafter let us go about telling the way 
canals will improve the commerce of the entire State. The people 
will get an improved canal some time. I hope before next year's 
session of this body that the divided canal interests of this State wUl 
come together on the canal improvement question." 

Undoubtedly Senator Green gave expression to an important truth. 
If we could trace community sentiment to its ultimate source we 
should probably find that in many cases some one individual or a 
small group of individuals through newspapers or public speaking 
have been able to mold the minds of their fellows to their own way 
of thinking. 

There was one measure that was passed by the Legislature of 1901, 
however, which was along the line of advancement in canal affairs. 
It carried out one of the recommendations made by the State Com- 
mittee on Canals. And the State Commerce Commission had also 
made the same recommendation. This was an amendment of the law 
governing transportation corporations and it removed the restriction 
which had limited to $50,000 the capital stock of companies carry- 
ing on a transportation business on the State canals. 

Just why this limitation had been imposed is not fully evident. 
On its face it was for the benefit of the boatman of small means 
who owned one or two or possibly three or four boats. The rapidity 
with which great corporations were gaining control of elevators and 
other terminal facilities and the large diversion of traffic from the 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 73 

canals because of excessive terminal charges, and the connections 
of these navigation companies with other and competing transporta- 
tion lines had threatened the existence of the small boatman. To 
correct this condition the general law governing transportation cor- 
porations was amended in 1896 so as to apply to canals and other 
waterways and the stock of companies navigating the canals was 
limited to $50,000, while the minimum was lowered to $5,000 in 
place of the $20,000 minimum in force before. There is some rea- 
son to believe, however, that the good of the small boat owner was 
not the only motive back of this amendment. At all events it did not 
seem to work out greatly to his benefit and it surely prevented the 
formation of companies large enough either to command the cooper- 
ation of connecting transportation lines or to carry on their business 
affairs according to modern methods. This break in the chain of 
transportation, where the small boatman had to be dealt with individ- 
ually, doubtless accounts for much of the non-use of the all-water 
route by Great Lakes shippers. 

The amendment of 1901, while it eliminated the $50,000 restric- 
tion, sought to retain protection against abuses by adding the clause, 
" No railroad corporation shall have, own or hold any stock in any 
such corporation." 

Before we return to legislative matters or to the affairs which 
were interesting canal advocates so deeply at this time, we may 
notice an occurrence which had to do with practical navigation on 
the canal. In his report for igoi the Superintendent of Public 
Works stated that the three fleets comprising eighteen steel canal 
boats, which had been operating successfully for a few years and 
which had been heralded with such acclaims of hope when they had 
been put in service, had been withdrawn from the canal and sent to 
the Philippines. These boats had been built by the Cleveland Steel 
Canal Boat Company and were an innovation in canal boat construc- 
tion. They made possible and also profitable the establishing of a 
through line of transportation between Cleveland and New York, 
since insurance companies would insure these steel boats on the lakes, 
a risk they had never taken on the wooden boats navigating the canal. 

The trial trip of the first fleet • — one steamer and five consorts — 
was made in August, 1895. It was so successful that other boats 
were added to the service during the next year. They made the trip 
from Cleveland to New York in from ten to twelve days and their 
ability to withstand heavy gales on Lake Erie was encouraging. At 
that time the owners expressed their belief that the boats could com- 

74 History of the Barge Canal 

pete successfully with the railroads as they then existed at a fair 
margin of profit. When the boats were withdrawn from the canal 
the owners admitted that they had made money but there was oppor- 
tunity for greater profit in their new venture. Their further state- 
ment forms an interesting commentary on the report which the State 
Commerce Commission had made to the Legislature in the preceding 
year. They said that their canal profits were meager because of the 
lack of terminal facilities at Buffalo and New York and they added 
that the decline in rates could be met by boats if it were possible to 
secure dispatch in handling cargoes but that the canal was destined 
to be a failure without such facilities. 

In all the agitation for canal improvement up to this time and even 
until several years after the new canal had been under construction, 
little if any attempt had been made to show the need or to advance 
the claims of terminal facilities, without which, as these boat owners 
said, any canal would be a failure. From our present standpoint this 
omission seems strange. It is generally conceded now that, lacking 
terminals and freight-handling devices, the Barge canal was pre- 
doomed to failure. Perhaps the agitators did not then appreciate the 
absolute necessity of terminals, and on the other hand perhaps they 
did not want to complicate the canal problem until the new channel 
itself was well on its way toward accomplishment. We are inclined 
to think that they were influenced in some measure by both reasons. 
In passing, it may be added that so far as we are aware no other 
steel canal boats were in canal service until those placed there by 
the Federal government in 1918. 

At the close of the 1901 legislative session canal affairs were in a 
decidedly unpromising condition. The want of harmony in the canal 
ranks was probably the largest factor in the failure to make progress, ^ 
and harmony seemed to be the one thing which was impossible of 
attainment at that time. None of the canal men were opposed to 
improvements; no, they were all united in thinking that something 
must be done and that it must be done quickly, but the conservatives 
did not believe the people would vote the vast sum needed for the 
1,000-ton project and so were willing to accept what they could get, 
while the radicals thought that to build anything less than the large 
canal was a waste of money and they were standing firmly for that 
or nothing. It happened that the cleavage between the two wings had 
also a local aspect. In the main it was New York city against the 
rest of the state. 

During 1901, therefore, we find the two factions trying to get 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 75 

together. In this they succeeded to the extent of all uniting in a 
renewed effort, by means of agitation and a campaign of education, 
to secure the adoption of necessary legislation and the approval by 
the people for a barge canal. In doing this work a new method of 
attack was adopted. The attempt was made to convince both politi- 
cal parties that they could no longer ignore the canal question, as had 
been the practice in the past, in fear of offending the rural voter. 

The State Commerce Convention of 1901 met in Buffalo on Octo- 
ber 16 to 18. This was the year of the Pan-American Exposition, 
which was being held in Buffalo. By that time the New York city 
views had gained such ascendency that the convention went on record 
with practical unanimity in favor of a 1,000-ton canal and even urged 
on the Governor and the Legislature the necessity of providing this 
canal in the shortest possible time. 

Late in the year 1901 there occurred an event which, although of 
a comparatively private nature, had a marked influence on public 
affairs. It was a dinner given by Gardiner K. Clark, Jr., in his 
home at 38 West Fifty-third street, New York city, on December 6. 
Mr. Clark was a public-spirited man, a friend of the canals and a 
member of the committee on canals of the New York Produce 
Exchange. To carry out a desire on the part of the Greater New 
York Canal Association to acquaint Governor Odell with the ideas 
held by New York canal men, Mr. Clark invited Governor Odell, 
Lieutenant-Governor Woodruff and several well-known men of 
affairs to meet in this social way and discuss informally the canal 
question. Covers were laid for eighteen and the after-dinner dis- 
cussion brought out some important facts and also a certain sug- 
gestion that doubtless guided the Governor in recommending what 
he did to the next Legislature. 

One of the men at this dinner was Andrew Carnegie and a state- 
ment he made was most interesting. He said that the Carnegie 
Steel Company had purchased 5,000 acres of land surrounding its 
port of Conneaut on Lake Erie and had plans ready to begin work 
at an estimated cost of $12,000,000 and one of the reasons for select- 
ing this site was the fact that New York was spending money in 
enlarging the Erie canal and also the implicit confidence he and his 
associates had that the State would never fail to enlarge this water- 
way as necessity dictated. He declared also his belief that nothing 
could prevent the western part of New York, along the lakes, from 
becoming one of the principal seats of manufacture if a suitable 
waterway were kept open between Buffalo and the ocean. " I am 

76 History of the Barge Canal 

certain," he said, " that the Empire State can maintain her position 
as the Empire State only by developing her manufacturing facilities 
through the Erie canal." 

But it was Lewis Nixon who made the suggestion which bore 
fruit in subsequent action. His proposition was a compromise 
between the i,ooo-ton project and the plan of completing the nine- 
foot deepening; it was to build new locks of the i,ooo-ton size, 
while the canal prism should be nine feet deep, the thought being that 
later, if it were deemed advisable, the channel might be enlarged to 
correspond in size with the locks. 

This scheme evidently appealed to the Governor, for he said he 
would consider it, and when he sent his annual message to the Legis- 
lature at the beginning of the 1902 session he proposed a plan of 
action which was based on this idea. 

In discussing in this message the subject of canals Governor Odell 
said that recent investigation had convinced him that the Legislature 
should adopt a definite policy as to future canal expenditures. But 
he seems to have retained his former conception in regard to the 
chief function of the canal — to be a regulator of railroad rates — 
for he says, " One is impressed by the fact that the canals as at 
present conducted are sufficient for all local business, but if they are 
to be as they have been in the past a restraining power upon the 
freight rates of the railroads, then some policy to make them more 
serviceable to the community should be adopted." He adds, however, 
that he does not believe the people would sanction the expenditure 
of money for the sole purpose of making the canal a funnel for the 
traffic of the far west and that what is desired by the building up of, 
internal commerce is to attract capital by offering inducements to 
manufacturers and thereby give employment to the people of the 

In his further discussion he mentions a few very important truths. 
In extenuation of railroad discriminations he states that in fairness 
New York must recognize its own shortcomings and seek to remedy 
existing deficiencies. " New York itself must act," he says. " It iriust 
make it possible for the railroads to have terminal facilities equal 
to those of other ports. It must make it possible for the canal boat 
owner to have equal consideration in the matter of dockage and other 
essentials." He deprecates the impossibility of canal traffic getting 
through bills of lading, such as railroads have. This latter draw- 
back, by the way, is only just now, after all these intervening years, 
being remedied and not fully at that, and moreover all through the 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 77 

past it has been an obstacle but too lightly considered. Canal advo- 
cates have not always been practical transportation men and often 
they have failed to see the importance of this matter, but it is a 
factor which under present business methods will largely make or 
break the success of the canal. 

The plan the Governor proposed at this time was the building of 
new locks of a capacity for thousand-ton barges and in the process 
reducing the number from 72 to 44 and making certain incidental 
changes of alignment; also the completion of the nine-foot deepen- 
ing. The estimated costs of these projects, according to figures 
furnished the Governor by the State Engineer, were $13,694,540 for 
the locks and $15,076,936 for the deepening. The Governor made 
two recommendations, first, that the proposal to enlarge the locks to 
1,000-ton barge capacity and to provide a new nine-foot channel 
from the Hudson river to Rexf ord Flats be submitted to the people 
as a separate proposition; second, that the canal be deepened to nine 
feet on such portions as were then less than that depth and that this 
proposition also be submitted to the people. 

The Governor's recommendations related to the Erie canal alone. 
Naturally this proposal aroused considerable opposition from those 
who were interested in the Champlain and the Oswego canals and 
this caused some little delay in the introduction of a bill to carry out 
the Governor's suggestion. But on January 20 Senator George A. 
Davis of Buffalo introduced such a bill and a similar measure was 
introduced in the Assembly by John A. Weekes, Jr., of New York. 
This bill carried a bond issue of $28,800,000. 

As reported from the Senate committee the bill included the Cham- 
plain canal and the amount of money had been increased to $31,800,- 
000. The Senate passed the measure in this form. When It 
emerged from the Assembly committee both the Champlain and the 
Oswego canals had been added and the appropriation amounted to, 
$37,200,000. All these complications and the bitter feeling that had 
been engendered between the several localities played directly into 
the hands of the anti-canal forces and allowed them to score another 
victory. The measure was defeated, first with the Oswego canal 
included and then with the Oswego out. 

One of the schemes adopted by the enemies of the canals during 
this legislative session was a concurrent resolution proposing to elim- 
inate the constitutional prohibition against selling the canals. The 
resolution provided further that in the canal bed should be con- 
structed a railroad to be used exclusively for carrying freight. This 
resolution was never reported out of committee. 

78 History of the Barge Canal 

One piece of legislation was enacted in 1902, however, which has 
had a direct but not widely known effect on the financial side of canal 
construction. This was a proposed constitutional amendment to pro- 
vide for using surplus moneys in the treasury in paying interest or 
principal of the bonded indebtedness of the State or in forming 
a sinking fund to pay such indebtedness. If the surplus moneys 
were sufficient to meet the needs of interest and sinking fund in any 
year, then a direct tax for that year need not be imposed. This 
amendment was passed by a succeeding Legislature and in due time, 
after receiving an approving popular vote, became section eleven of 
article seven of the State Constitution. Under its provisions the 
State was without direct annual tax for several years in spite of being 
in the midst of canal and other large public works construction. 

While speaking of the financial aspect of the canal question we 
may anticipate certain legislative action taken in 1903 which eventu- 
ally amended section four of article seven of the GDnstitution and 
extended the bonding period for which State debts might be author- 
ized from eighteen to fifty years. The early bonds for canal con- 
struction were sold prior to the time this amendment became effective, 
but the later bonds under authority of this provision are running for 
fifty years. 

In the legislative contest of 1902 the New York city interests, 
the back-bone of the effort to secure a 1,000-ton canal, were aligned 
with the main body of canal men. Not that they were in hearty 
accord with the various measures proposed, but the building of the 
new locks was a step in the direction of their desires and they were 
willing to join the conflict in the hope that more would follow. They 
did their p)art in sending out literature to a large number of voters 
throughout the state. But it cannot be said that they greatly re- 
gretted the defeat of the bills, and in the end the failure of the 
proposed legislation of 1902 proved to be beneficial to the canal cause. 
The enemies of the canals, on the other hand, were pleased with 
their success, and among them were the railroads, which had shown 
again their cleverness in killing canal improvement by disingenuous 
but effective methods. Their pleasure, however, might have been 
chilled, had they perceived the real service they were rendering the 
canals in bringing all advocates to a united effort for the large canal 

The failures to pass canal legislation during the sessions of '1901 
and 1902 were not attributable in both years to the same causes 
nor indeed were they due either year to a lack of endeavor by canal 
men nor even to an indisposition on the part of the people of the 
state to do the right thing by <^Vip -watprwav; Tn toot the anti- 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 79 

canal rural vote and the other enemies of the canals were strengthened 
by the ultraradical canal wing, while in 1902 they gained a con- 
trolling voice by reinforcements from the disappointed local factions. 

On the whole, canal men may have been well pleased with the 
result of the 1902 legislative session. It is to be doubted whether 
the Governor's hybrid plan would have wrought anything but a 
temporary makeshift and a very costly one at that. But progress 
was being made; gradually the Governor was coming around to the 
barge canal idea. 

In these pages we have been considering canal affairs almost to 
the exclusion of all other interests, but this subject was far from 
absorbing much of the thought of the vast majority of citizens. To 
be sure their orators and their statesmen had been telling them for 
years that upon transportation depended in great measure national 
and personal welfare and that adequate waterways held a large place 
in a proper transportation system, or as a former Governor put it, 
" The chief element in the prosperity of every State or Nation is 
the economy of transportation of persons and property. It is the 
most marked fact in the difference between civilization and bar- 
barism." * And their historians had informed them that their own 
little Erie canal in the first half century of its existence, even in its 
diminutive size, had been the greatest single influence in bringing 
marvelous wealth and prosperity to the city and state of New York 
and to a wide expanse of the Middle West. But the influence of 
the canal was too remote and too vague to make a lasting appeal, 
and things which called louder and with greater insistence held the 
people's attention. 

One of the subjects of public concern in New York state was the 
good roads movements. In 1898 the State had begun in a modest 
way the improvement of its highways. So-called highway improve- 
ment had existed of course as long as the highways themselves, but 
in such crude form as seldom to be worthy of the name. In the 
early eighties the agitation for good roads had been started by the 
League of Ameritan Wheelmen. The movement had been taken up 
by other organizations and had grown to such a size that by the 
time of which we are writing the Supervisors' Highway Convention, 
meeting on January 28, 1902, in its third annual convention, passed 
resolutions calling on the State for a bond issue of $20,000,000 to 

* Letter of ex-Governor Horatio Seymour to chairman of Assembly canal 
committee on February 27, 1882, when Constitutional amendment to abolish 
canal tolls was pending. 

80 History of the Barge Canal 

build State highways. In this movement the city dweller and the 
country resident stood shoulder to shoulder. For the first time in 
years, perhaps, the farmer arrayed himself in the ranks of public 
works supporters. He could easily see the direct benefit he would 
gain. In the case of the canals, however, the advantage was too 
far removed to seem real, and the fact that the cities paid nine- 
tenths or more of the cost of all public improvements, highways as 
well as canals, did not seem to weigh heavily. 

In the summer and fall of 1902, moreover, the fierce political 
battle preceding the general election absorbed universal attention and 
many other things were forgotten. The reelection of Governor Odell 
over Bird S. Coler by a plurality of less than ten thousand votes 
shows how intense was the contest. 

The canal question, however, had a more prominent place in this 
year's campaign than ever before. For the first time both political 
parties were forced to take serious notice of a growing sentiment 
for canal improvement. This came about by a determination of 
canal advocates to end their modest and retiring attitude and compel 
political recognition. To gain their object the press was used and 
strong editorials in certain leading publications had their effect. The 
Buffalo papers were the first to begin this campaign. There was 
some talk even of forming a canal party, but this plan did not meet 
with general favor, it being deemed wiser to bring so much pressure 
to bear on the existing organizations that neither of the two great 
parties should dare longer to ignore the canal question. 

When the State conventions were held in the fall at Saratoga, the 
Republican on September 22 and the Democratic on October i, the 
canal men were there in force. Committees had been appointed by 
the Canal Association of Greater New York and by President John 
D. Keman of the State Commerce Convention and these delegates 
represented the strong canal centers of the state. Senator John 
Laughlin was chosen to present the matter to the Republican con- 
vention and Theodore S. Fassett to the Democratic convention. In 
the Republican assemblage John I. Piatt was there in behalf of 
railroad interests to oppose any canal improvement plank, but the 
canal men prevailed and the party committed itself to the enlarge- 
ment and improvement of the canals — to such an extent as fully and 
adequately to meet all requirements of commerce, such being in sub- 
stance the language of its declaration. Although the canal people 
secured their plank, the rural constituency was still strong enough to 
influence its phraseology and the result was a statement that dealt withi 
generalities and had little real meaning. The Democratic convention 

Z. > f 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 81 

on the other hand adopted a strong and unequivocal canal plank, which 
pledged the party to prepare and submit to the people immediately 
a plan of canal improvement that would give a i,ocx>-ton capacity to 
the Erie and Oswego canals and adequate improvement for the other 
State canals. i,| ■ ,>i-^;t'K;! 

Thus the Democrats, as the " canal party," made their appeal to 
the voters, but this difference between the two platforms was practi- 
cally nullified by Governor Odell's speech of acceptance. He had 
been coming around to the opinion of the canal men and in accepting 
the nomination for Governor he declared definitely for a i, coo-ton 
canal. During the campaign the friends of the canals saw to it 
that the candidates of both parties showed where they stood on the 
canal question, and these tactics compelled the political leaders to 
declare that their respective parties stood committed to canal- im- 

There was one occurrence soon after the State conventions which 
should receive our attention. Meetings were held by the Buffalo 
Merchants' Exchange and the New York Produce Exchange at 
which there was a strong sentiment in favor of committing the 
canal men of the state to the Democratic party because of its positive 
canal plank. As it turned out such action would probably have 
dealt the canal cause a serious if not a fatal blow. The Democrats 
were defeated and if the canals had shared that defeat they might 
never have recovered. But canal interests were not intrusted to a 
single party. Led by Buffalo and especially by George Clinton, 
resolutions in appreciation of the canal planks adopted by the two 
political parties were passed by both the Buffalo and New York 
organizations and canal men were saved from making a sad blunder. 

Before continuing with the political campaign and the events which 
followed the election, we shall consider a few activities of the days 
between the adjournment of the Legislature and the beginning of 
the fall campaign. 

In the latter part of April at a joint meeting of committees from 
the Greater New York Canal Association and the New York Produce 
Exchange a committee was apjxjinted to confer with people from 
Buffalo and Oswego with reference to choosing which of the various 
i,000-ton canal routes they should favor. This conference was held 
in Buffalo in May and State Engineer Bond was present upon invi- 
tation. After prolonged discussion and careful deliberation the 
route which extended by canal all the way across the state from 
east to west was selected, this in preference to the route by canal 
from the Hudson river to Oswego and thence to Buffalo by way of 

82 History of the Barge Canal 

Lake Ontario and either a short canal beginning at Olcott or the 
Niagara river with a canal around the falls. 

But to digress a moment: To one who is familiar with the his- 
tory of the New York canals this discussion of routes brings back 
most interesting memories — those of the time now nearly a century 
and a quarter gone when this same old question, older than the 
canal itself, was a burning topic. In the first days of the Republic, 
when the thought of a canal from the Hudson to the great interior 
lakes began to get hold of the early settlers it was taken for granted 
that it would follow the line of the natural waterways. Strangely, 
however, the first legislative action connected with what developed 
into the State canal system was a resolution looking toward a survey 
of the " most eligible and direct route " for a canal between the 
tide-waters of the Hudson river and Lake Erie, but so firmly fixed 
was the idea of the Ontario route, as the natural waterways route 
came to be known a little later, that the intention of the original 
resolution was disregarded, the legislators not being willing to sanc- 
tion so wild a project, and for it was substituted a resolution which 
directed a survey of the rivers and streams along " the usual route " 
and such other route as the Surveyor-General might deem proper. 
At that time little was known of the territory where the canal 
eventually was built, but when the interior country was explored 
it took its place as a rival of the lake route and from then on, 
all through the agitation for the original Erie canal, the question 
was hotly debated, even until the time of deciding to build a canal. 
An early writer, speaking of the " Canal Memorial " of 1816, the 
famous document which turned the tide of public sentiment canal- 
ward, says, " It effectually exploded the Ontario route, and silenced 
forever its advocates." 

But it seems that nearly a century later the question had to be 
settled again and this time as before the way in which individual 
localities would be affected and the need of the votes of all canal 
territory had as much to do with the decision as the consideration 
of engineering features or comparative costs or of what would be 
best for the canal as a whole. In the Legislature of 1902 the 
attempt was made to put through a measure for the Erie canal 
alone, but without success. The survey of 1900 had shown the 
Mohawk-Oswego route much cheaper than the route all inland to 
Buffalo, but nobody was foolish enough to try to put that proposi- 
tion to vote. Without the support of the western section no canal 
legislation could hope to succeed. During 1902 the sentiment 
gradually turned to the plan of using the inland route for the Erie 

Three Years of Barge Canal Agitation 83 

canal and enlarging the Oswego canal to a channel of like dimen- 
sions. The legislation of 1903 shows this development. In effect 
this solution of the problem of routes consisted in the choice of both 
and, as we shall see, this was the solution eventually approved by 
the people. 

To enlist the press of the city in their cause the Canal Association 
of Greater New York and the canal committee of the New York 
Produce Exchange gave a dinner to the principal editors at Del- 
monico's on September 11, 1902, with the result that the New York 
papers soon were taking as lively an interest in canal affairs as 
were those of Buffalo. 

The Republican ticket was successful in the election of 1902 and 
Governor Odell was reelected. Soon after the election steps were 
taken to draft a canal bill which should embody the ideas of canal 
advocates. The New York men undertook this and in doing it they 
availed themselves of the valuable services of Abel E. Blackmar, 
counsel of the New York Produce Exchange. In drafting the 
engineering and technical portions Mr. Blackmar was ably assisted 
by Major Thomas W. Symons. Also the aid and advice of George 
Clinton and Senator Henry W. Hill were secured in framing this 
measure, which it was planned to introduce in the Legislature early 
in the session. 

Early in December a new complication arose. The Governor pro- 
posed making the route which -utilized Lake Ontario between 
Oswego and Olcott the one to be favored. This stirred up canal 
men. Meetings were held in New York and Bufifalo and in a few 
days a delegation of men from these two cities waited on the Gov- 
ernor and laid before him the advantages of the inland route as 
compared with any route which used Lake Ontario. The Governor 
would not commit himself, but his suggestion had had the effect 
of uniting all canal interests in a determination to stand for a 
1,000-ton canal or nothing and also for the interior route. 


Importance of Year 1903 in Canal History — Governor's Message Arouses 
to Action — Reimposition of Tolls Suggestion — Combatted by Canal 
Men — Governor Recommends Thousand-Ton Canal — Suggests Electric 
Towage May Obviate Its Necessity — Thousand-Ton Canal Bill Intro- 
duced — Hearings on Bill — Accuracy of Estimates Upheld — Revised 
Estimate Ordered — New Estimate Shows Large Increase in Cost — Bill 
Amended — Counter Bills: Railroad Schemes: Proposal to Permit Sale 
of Canals: Electric Towage Proposition: Bill to Reimpose Tolls: 

, Federal Waterway Plan — Gigantic International Canal and Water-Power 
Project Launched — Attitude of State Press — Other Opposition — Canal 
Organizations Active — Canal Bill Progressed — Senate Contest — Ef- 
fect of Tammany Support — Measure Passed by Senate — Assembly 
Approves after Strenuous Fight — Signed by Governor. 

WITH but one possible exception the year 1903 is the most 
momentous year in New York State canal history. The 
only other which rivals it is 1817, the year when the State 
decided to build the original Erie and Champlain canals. Compared 
with the waterway which the people determined in 1903 to build, the 
canals undertaken in 1817 seem pitifully small, but considering the 
differences of times and conditions the State embarked on the larger 
enterprise in 1817 and one fraught with vastly greater difficulties 
and hazards. In that day the nation was young and its financial 
resources small. The whole state had only one-fifth the population 
of New York city today. Engineering was an unknown profession 
in America. The track of the canal was an unbroken forest or a 
miasmal marsh. People denounced the scheme as visionary. Presi- 
dent Jefferson declared it a century ahead of its time. President 
Madison thought its cost would exceed the resources of the whole 
country and refused aid. The National government would not help 
even by granting its unsalable western lands, which the canal 
eventually transformed into flourishing States. For New York 
alone and unaided to undertake the work was considered by many as 
equivalent to dooming the State to bankruptcy. In derision it was 
said that in Clinton's " big ditch would be buried the treasure of 
the State, to be watered by the tears of posterity." 

Strong and determined men were needed to guide the canal project 
in those early days and we have come to look upon them as the 


Legislative Contest of 1903 85 

leaders of their time, gifted with the most far-seeing vision, imbued 
with the most perfect patriotism. So, too, the men who guided the 
canal project of 1903 through the vicissitudes of that year and the 
difficulties of later years were strong and determined and history has 
accorded them a high place among the men of their day, and doubt- 
less future generations, far enough removed to get the true per- 
spective, will bestow a still higher award. 

We shall have to review the events of 1903 at considerable length, 
so many and varied were the activities, so important and wide-reach- 
ing was the decision then made, so immense was the enterprise 

The Governor's annual message to the Legislature of 1903 sounded 
the note which aroused to action both the friends and the adversaries 
of the canals. There was one feature of this message which had 
been anticipated by some of the friends and concerning which we 
desire to speak now, so that later the continuity of events may not 
be interrupted. 

The Governor said that in case the large canal scheme should 
receive legislative approval he would " recommend the adoption of 
a concurrent resolution providing for the reimposition of limited 
tolls, which would perhaps produce revenue enough to provide for 
the maintenance of the canal, believing that the lowering of the 
freight rates would be so great that a tollage could be easily met 
without interfering with the results which it hoped to accomplish 
under this plan." 

On the i8th of December preceding, the committee on canals of 
the New York Produce Exchange and the sub-executive committee 
of the Canal Association of Greater New York had adopted a report 
and a resolution of a committee on tolls and had sent a copy of these 
to the Governor. A few of the statements contained in this report 
are worth quoting. Among them is a letter written by ex-Governor 
Horatio Seymour in 1882, when the proposition to abolish canal 
tolls was pending in the Legislature. 

" Many seem to think," said Mr. Seymour, " that the question 
involved in the pending amendment is only to determine if the canals 
shall be supported by those who use them, or by taxation upon all 
parts of the State. This is very far from being a true view. Tolls 
are taxes of the most hurtful kind to the whole community. . . . 
The object of the amendment is not only to relieve our boatmen and 
to save our canals, but to lighten taxation in every part of the state. 

86 History of the Barge Canal 

That it will do this can be shown not only by reason, but more clearly 
by experience. When our canals were first projected, they were 
opposed because it was feared that, while they might benefit some 
sections, they would injure others away from their lines. This 
proved to be the reverse of the truth. The wise way to lighten 
taxation is to add to the wealth and prosperity of the community. 
Since the completion of the canals the ratio of taxation upon the 
extreme northern and southern sections of New York has been 
reduced, while the markets for their products have been improved 
and enlarged. 

For years New York had been made to suffer luider railroad 
discriminations and how this condition affected the question of tolls 
the report went on to explain. It said, " Your committee are well 
aware of the fact that, as far as they are informed, all foreign canals 
are operated under the toll system and that, therefore, is no reason 
why the proposed improved waterway, ranking second only to the 
proposed Panama canal, should form an exception to the rule. But 
your committee venture to urge that the Erie canal plainly occupies 
a position radically different from that of any other canal in that it 
forms the sole possible competitor of the numerous powerful and 
allied railroad lines leagued together for the purpose of so directing 
traffic as to deprive the State and City of New York of that share 
of commerce to which they are entitled. . . . Your committee 
believe that the rules applicable to other canals cannot obtain here." 

The committee had made careful inquiry and had learned that the 
general feeling in New York city business circles was that the reim- 
position of canal tolls would be a step backward and a grievous 

Recurring now to the Governor's message, we find him reaffirm- 
ing his belief in the thousand-ton barge plan and urging most strongly 
upon the Legislature the necessity for immediate action, and saying, 
" We should recollect that above every other claim the prosperity 
and upbuilding of our State are foremost. While giving all weight 
to the expense involved, we sTiould not be deterred from any expend- 
iture that will hold the supremacy of which we are all justly 

" In my last message," he said further, " I advocated the deepen- 
ing of the canals to a nine-foot level with locks capable and large 
enough to provide for one thousand-ton barge tonnage. To this 
subsequently suggestions were added that both the Oswego and the 
Champlain canals should be equally enlarged. This proposed measure 

Legislative Contest of 1903 87 

failed of passage, I am convinced, because of an honest belief upon 
the part of many members of the Legislature that the plan proposed 
was inadequate to meet the requirements of commerce." 

Besides the proposal to reimpose tolls, of which we have already 
spoken, there were two other features of this message that gave 
encouragement to canal opponents. One was the immensity of the 
cost as it was made to appear if interest were included, and it was 
in this form that the Governor presented the project. Taking the 
estimate of the 1900 survey and adding interest at three per cent 
for fifty years the total cost, the Governor said, would be $193,980,- 
967.50, and if the Champlain canal should be deepened to 12 feet, 
as was then desired by canal advocates, rather than to 7 feet, the 
whole cost, principal and interest included, would be $215,000,000. 
The other feature was a suggestion that electrical equipment for 
rapid haulage over the existing canal might obviate the necessity of 
constructing a 1,000- ton canal. 

On January 13, 1903, the executive committee of the Canal Asso- 
ciation of Greater New York formally adopted the canal bill as it 
had been prepared by Messrs. Blackmar, Symons, Clinton and Hill 
and two days later it was introduced in the Assembly by Charles F. 
Bostwick of New York. It carried an appropriation of $81,000,000 
and provided for deepening the Erie and Oswego canals to 12 feet 
and the Champlain canal to 7 feet. 

A conference of canal men from various parts of the state was 
held in Albany on January 26 and as a result the bill was modified 
in some respects and the bond issue was increased to $82,000,000. 
In this form it was introduced in the Senate by George A. Davis, 
Chairman of the Senate canal committee, on January 28. One of 
the modifications increased the Champlain locks in the Hudson river 
section to the same size as those proposed for the Erie and Oswego 

All through the legislative contest of 1903 the adversaries of the 
canal were alert and persistently active. Immediately upon the 
introduction of the canal bill they demanded $50,000,000 for good 
roads. The friends were no less vigilant and busy. They appeared 
in numbers at the several hearings ; through their organizations they 
were constantly in touch with the legislative situation and were ready 
for all emergencies. 

Three joint hearings were held on the canal bill and among the 
men to appear in favor of the measure were several of those who 
had stood by the cause for years, such men as Henry B. Hebert, 

88 History of the Barge Canal 

Gustav H. Schwab, William F. McConnell, Captain William E. 
Cleary, and William F. King of New York, and George Clinton, 
Henry W. Hill, John Laughlin and George H. Raymond of Buffalo; 
also prominent engineers who had been connected in an advisory 
capacity with various parts of the canal investigations. Major 
Thomas W. Symons, David J. Howell, George S. Morrison and 
William H. Burr, while Alfred Noble, then President of the Ameri- 
can Society of Civil Engineers and in charge of the Pennsylvania 
railroad tunnel, sent his opinion by letter. The f ramer of the canal 
bill, Abel E. Blackmar, also appeared. In opposition there were 
present representatives of the State grange, those who favored a 
Federal ship canal or some other scheme, those who objected because 
of opposition to canals in general or on account of certain features 
of this particular canal, and also John I. Piatt, who represented the 
railroad interests and was the most persistent and ubiquitous 
opponent of all. 

At these hearings the trustworthiness of the State Engineer's 
estimates was attacked. To combat this attempt of the adversaries 
to discredit the figures several eminent engineers were called upon to 
give their opinions. What two of them said is worth noticing, even 
to their exact words. 

In a letter to Mr. Davis, chairman of the Senate canal committee, 
Alfred Noble said : 

"At a meeting held on February 5, 1901, the Board of Advisory 
Engineers, of which I was a member, adopted the following resolu- 

" ' Resolved, That in the opinion of this Board, the work (sur- 
veys and plans) has been done thoroughly and in a manner which 
meets its approval, and that the estimates and reports in which the 
results of these surveys and work have been embodied are entitled 
to the confidence of the people of the State of New York.' 

" I voted for this resolution and still believe that the work can 
be done for the estimated amount approved therein, if carried on 
under efficient management." 

William H. Burr, a professor of engineering in Columbia Uni- 
versity and a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission, said at 
one of the hearings : 

" The plans and estimates which are now before you were 
reached through a study by a body of engineers whose 'operations 
were characterized. I believe, by a degree of thoroughness and 
technical preparation which has never been excelled in the considera- 

Legislative Contest of 1903 89 

tion of any similar engineering question. Careful surveys were 
made, The board of consulting engineers and its staff not only 
made its own examinations through this state, but had before it a 
great mass of surveys and an examination of the most thorough 
kind made by the United States Deep Waterways Board, a large 
portion of whose work lay in this state along the line of the pro- 
posed waterway.'' 

Between the first and second hearings on the canal bill, on Febru- 
ary lo, an Assembly resolution called upon the State Engineer to 
make a report to that body by March 2 in answer to certain questions 
contained in the resolution. This move was evidently an attempt 
by the enemies of the bill in part to delay action but more especially 
to get a revised estimate, probably not for the sake of accuracy 
but in the hope that the figures would be so large as to defeat the 
project by their very size. While waiting for this report canal 
men could do little but try to strengthen their organization and 
prepare public sentiment for whatever course might be necessary 
when the time for further action should come. 

The canal bill as originally introduced in the Senate provided for 
deepening the Champlain canal to only seven feet, although in the 
Hudson river section locks of the 1,000-ton size were to take 
the place of the existing structures. Naturally the people of 
that portion of the state were not satisfied and they zealously 
bestirred themselves to have the bill amended. They argued 
that there was fully as miuch reason for enlarging the Cham- 
plain branch to barge canal size as for increasing the Oswego 
canal to like dimensions. The tonnage records of the two 
waterways were compared — decidedly to the advantage of the 
Champlain canal — showing the tonnage of the latter during the 
preceding decade to be from 800,000 to 1,000,000 tons annually, 
while the Oswego had carried only 184,000 tons during the most 
prosperous year of the same decade and only 31,000 tons during 
the least prosperous year. The paper mills and the iron ore 
deposits in the Champlain region were cited as being of sufficient 
magnitude to demand a large canal. The prospect of Essex county 
iron ore being shipped in large quantities to the Buffalo steel 
works and thus becoming an important return cargo, was an argu- 
ment of considerable weight. 

On March 2 State Engineer Bond transmitted to the Legislature 
the report which he had made in response to the resolution of 
February 10. We do not need to concern ourselves with the 
detailed answers to each of the questions asked in the resolution ; a 
orasu of the outstanding facts will suffice. 

90 History of the Barge Canal 

With reference to the accuracy of the original estimate Mr. 
Bond said : " The work throughout was organized in a systematic 
manner and carried to completion with the utmost care and 
thoroughness in regard to every detail, all questions as to location, 
method of construction, style of structures, classification of mate- 
rial and unit prices for estimates of cost being determined only 
after thorough investigation and discussion by the advisory board 
and myself. 

" I have no hesitation, therefore, in asserting that the estimates 
of cost given in the barge canal report were as complete and 
accurate as any estimates ever prepared within the time allotted 
for a work of such magnitude, and that they were reliable estimates 
of the cost at that time for the improvement covered by the report, 
with the one possible exception of the allowance for unforeseen 
contingencies and expenses. 

" It is an undisputed fact, that during the past few years the 
prosperity of our country has resulted in an increase in the con- 
struction of public works of all descriptions, and in the develop- 
ment of native resources by private capital, creating such a demand 
for labor and material that both have advanced in price within the 
past two years; furthermore, the fact of the State enlisting in an 
enterprise of this magnitude would have a tendency to increase 
the price of labor and material entering into its construction. 

" My answers to the questions contained in the resolution are 
made after a very thorough investigation and careful analysis of 
the conditions now prevailing." 

In the form of a summary Mr. Bond gave the following figures : 
The estimated cost of a i, coo-ton canal from Troy to Buffalo and 
from Three River Point to Oswego and of a seven-foot Champlain 
canal was $80,219,172. These are figures given in the report of the 
1900 survey. If one desires to get at the component parts, he 
may take the net total of the route we described as line A, add to 
it the difference in cost between a 12-foot and a 9-foot Oswego canal, 
as shown in the description of line B, and subtract the value of aban- 
doned Oswego canal lands. To the $80,219,172 there should be 
added $888,943, the cost of barge canal locks on the Champlain canal 
from Waterford to Northumberland, and $300,000, the estimate 
for constructing a lock and making necessary repairs to the Erie 
canal in the lumber district in Albany. Each of these pieces of 
work was included in the bill then pending and the additions made 
a total of $81,408,115. In rounded form this was the eighty-two 
millions of the bill. 

Legislative Contest of 1903 91 

The estimated increase due to advanced prices for labor and 
materials was $5,900,984 and this amount added made a total of 
$87,309,099. Lest the ten per cent allowed in the 1900 estimate for 
engineering and contingencies should not be enough to cover every 
unforeseen difficulty or emergency, Mr. Bond added five per cent 
more, or $4,365,454. This brought the revised cost for the work 
included in the legislative bill to a total of $91,674,553. 

We have seen that there was considerable public sentiment in 
favor of enlarging the Champlain canal to barge canal dimensions. 
In deference to this feeling Mr. Bond gratuitously included an 
estimate for this additional work ($7,355,965) and at the same 
time he inserted an item for a junction lock near Fort Bull ($129,- 
168) and the cost of improving the Hudson river from Troy to 
Waterford and the Niagara river from Tonawanda to Buffalo 
($1,403,307 on the basis of revised prices). The necessity for the 
junction lock had not been discovered at the time of the 1900 
estimate; it would render available as a navigable feeder a long 
section of the existing Erie canal. It had been hoped that the 
Federal government would undertake the short stretches of im- 
provement in the Hudson and Niagara rivers. Mr. Bond thought 
that their cost should be included in any appropriation for the 
canal, since the United States might decline to do the work. In 
that case all the vast improvement would be largely ineffectual, 
because there would be a barrier at each end of the canal and 
boats of deep draft could not pass beyond Waterford on the east 
nor beyond Tonawanda on the west. Adding these three items, the 
grant total became $100,562,993. 

This large increase in cost was what the opponents of the canal 
had hoped for. Their wish had come true, but it did not work 
out according to their expectations. Instead of being dismayed 
the friends of the project changed their plans to fit the new situa- 
tion and pressed on with greater zeal. 

After the presentation of the State Engineer's special report a 
few canal men met in conference. Abel E. Blackmar represented 
the New York city commercial organizations and George Clinton 
the up-state interests and with them met Henry W. Hill. These 
three considered the whole question with the utmost deliberation 
and reached the conclusion that the Champlain canal should be 
improved in the same manner as the Erie and Oswego branches 
and that additional funds should be provided for the project. 
Accordingly they changed the canal bill to meet these requirements 
and then submitted the amended bill to a larger conference, Sena- 

92 HisioTy of the Barge Canal 

tor George A. Davis and Assemblymen Charles F. Bostwick and 
James M. Graeff being called in and meeting with them on 
March lo. 

In its amended form the bill carried an appropriation of $ioi,- 
000,000. With the Oiamplain included, all of the canal advocates 
were united and there were not present thereafter in the Legisla- 
ture of 1903 the divided interests which had characterized the 
sessions of 1901 and 1902, especially the latter year, when the 
alienation of the Oswego forces gave sufficient strength to the 
opf)osition to defeat the measure. 

Before considering further the fortunes of the amended bill, let 
us turn for a few moments to two or three other subjects, and first 
we shall look at the counter projects brought forward by the 
adversaries in order to divert interest or directly to oppose the 
canal proposition. 

On February 2 a concurrent resolution- was introduced in the 
Assembly which proposed to amend the Oanstitution so as to 
authorize the State to build a railway in the bed of the canal and 
to least it upon certain terms. This resolution was never reported 
from the committee to which it was referred. Of a like nature was 
a proposition made by former State Senator Charles A. Stadler, 
who offered to form a corporation that would carry freight from 
Buffalo to New York in from a third to a half of the time required 
by canal boats and at a cost not more than by the existing canal. 
His plan was to build an electric or steam railway in the bed of the 
canal by means of which he expected to transport freight from 
Buffalo to Albany in 24 hours. Large boats were to be used 
between Albany and New York. This scheme was too visionary 
to give canal men much concern. Just how the new railroad was 
to do so much better than the existing well-equipp)ed roads, in 
both rate^ and average time of shipment, was hard to explain. 

On January 23 a concurrent resolution was introduced in the 
Senate proposing to amend the Constitution by striking out the 
section which prohibited the sale, lease or other disposal of the 
State canals. An attempt somewhat like this had been made to 
side-track canal legislation during the session of 'I902. Like its 
predecessor of the year before this resolution too died in committee. 

Another proposition was that presented to a joint meeting of the 
Senate and Assembly canal committees on March 11 by a company 
known as the International Towing and Power Company. It was 
a scheme of electric towage and the plan was to build on the outer 

Legislative Contest of 1903 93 

side of the tow-path certain steel construction which should carry- 
rails on which two electric tractors could run, being able to pass 
each other in opposite directions and so located as not to obstruct 
the tow-path, which might still be used by horses for hauling boats. 
The proponents of this scheme estimated that boats could be towed 
from Buffalo to Albany for 50 cents per ton and that the electric 
equipment would cost about $7,500,000. 

As we have seen already, the Governor had suggested in his 
annual message of 1903 that electric propulsion might solve the 
canal problem. It is probable that his thought in this respect was 
influenced by a letter sent to him a few days before by ex-United 
States Senator Warner Miller, in which the idea was set forth in 
considerable detail. 

It will be noticed of course that this proposition was in reality a 
substitute for the barge canal plan. If its success should prove as 
great as its advocates predicted, then there would be no need of 
a 1,000-ton canal. Moreover, it presupposed a tow-path or some 
other convenient place on which to build its tracks and in a river 
canalization, such as much of the proposed new canal was to be, a 
tow-path or other suitable place for tracks might often be lacking. 
It is probable, however, that as yet there was little general appre- 
ciation of what would be the nature of river canalization or of how 
large a proportion of the projected State canal system would be 
in river or lake channels. It is interesting to notice in passing that, 
when the debates were in progress on the canal bill a few days 
after this scheme was placed before the canal committees. Senator 
Davis, in controverting one of the chief claims for acceptance of 
this plan, the low cost of haulage, said that already boats were 
being towed by steam canal boats for 50 cents a ton from Buffalo 
to New York, 150 miles farther for the same amount of money. 

Neither of the canal committees acted favorably upon this propo- 
sition, but in the autumn, just before election, as we shall see 
presently, a public demonstration of actual electric towage was 
given at Schenectady. 

On the same day that the towage scheme was presented to the 
committees, Assembl)'man Charles S. Plank of St. Lawrence county 
introduced a concurrent resolution which proposed to amend the 
Constitution so as to permit the reimposition of tolls on the State 
canals. The resolution was favorably reported from committee and 
passed the Assembly on April 8, with y6 votes in favor, a bare 
constitutional majority, and 50 votes opposed. It was then trans- 

94 History of the Barge Canal 

mitted to the Senate, referred to the Judiciary committee, but never 
reported out. 

This measure too had been suggested in the Governor's message. 
It was opposed by canal nlen at this time for two reasons. In the 
first place probably most of them were of the /opinion voiced in the 
resolution of the Canal Association of Greater New York that it 
"would mean a backward step and a regrettable reversion of the 
enlightened policy adopted by the people of the State in freeing 
the canals from any toll whatever." But more important at this 
particular crisis was the fact that the Constitution at that time pro- 
hibited the submission to the electorate at one and the same time 
both a bonding referendum and an amendment to the Constitution. 
This restriction, by the way, was eliminated by a constitutional 
amendment in 1905. 

But of chief importance among the legislative measures opposed 
to the canal project was a bill introduced by Senator ^lerton E. 
Lewis which would authorize the Governor to appoint a commission 
to negotiate with the Federal government and inquire whether the 
United States would undertake the construction of a deep water- 
way between Lake Erie and the Hudson river and if so, upon what 
terms. Before introducing this bill Senator Lewis had presented a 
resolution of somewhat similar import, calUng upon Congress to 
complete the surveys of deep waterways by an interior route and 
to include a full study of its possibilities for commercial and mili- 
tary uses and for the development of water-power. The resolu- 
tion had been referred to the canal committee, where it was pigeon- 
holed. From its nature this bill was scarcely entitled to be the 
chief rival of the canal bill, but it assumed such position because 
its introducer came from the hotbed of anti-canal sentiment, Mon- 
roe county, and was most persistent in his opposition. 

But not all the hostile activity was within the legislative halls. 
About the midd'e of March a colossal canal and water-power proj- 
ect was launched. Many prominent men were connected with it, 
but coming as it did just at this particular time and not being 
pushed later to fruition, one is forced to the conclusion that its 
purpose was primarily if not solely to divert support from the 
canal bill. The meeting from which this project sprang was held 
in the office of Andrew H. Green and a number of well-known New 
York city men were present. This meeting adopted a resolution 
calling for an international convention of all the peoples of North 
America and the purpose of this convention was to form an asso- 
ciation to promote the construction of a continental system of deep 

Legislative Contest of 1903 95 

waterways and a system of water^powers and also an irrigation 
system for the arid lands of the continent. 

A partial idea of what the scheme involved is shown by a few 
words of one of the speakers at the meeting. He said, " Ten 
billions of dollars would construct a continental system of deep 
sea canals and create water power equal to fifty million horse- 
power ... At the rate of $23 a horse-power a year, fifty* 
million horse-power would command a rental of one billion, one 
hundred and fifty miUion a year, or 11J/2 per cent per year on the 
cost. On this basis the rental of water power would discharge the 
interest on the construction of the canals and water power and the 
cost of maintenance, and create a sinking fund for the discharge 
of the principal within fifty years. Competent authorities estimate 
the available water power on this continent to be equal to one 
hundred million horse-power. The system outlined would give to 
American vessels absolute control for all time to come of the for- 
eign commerce of this continent without subsidies being granted 
them, and therefore save the two hundred miUion for subsidies 
proposed in the Hanna-Fry bill." 

This meeting endorsed Senator Lewis' bill but evidently without 
definite knowledge of its contents, since the language of the en- 
dorsement assumed that it asked " Congress to complete surveys 
for a canal thirty feet deep between the Great Lakes and Atlantic 

The immensity and boldness of this scheme and the prominence 
of the men connected with its inception gave the project wide pub- 
licity and it was endorsed by a portion of the press, probably with- 
out due deliberation. 

It will be recalled that Andrew H. Green, one of the promoters 
of this project and in whose office the meeting was held, had been 
a member of the State Commerce Commission, the body ap- 
pointed by Governor Black in 1898 to inquire into the causes of the 
decline of New York commerce. In the debate on the canal bill a 
few days after this meeting Senator Grady severely scored Mr. 
Green for his advocacy of the Lewis bill, attributing his action to 
railroad affiliations. 

The press of the state took an active interest in the canal question 
during the whole of this year of 1903. Indeed the canal problem 
was a live subject for the press all through this period of agitation 
— from the time when Governor Roosevelt appointed his committee 
which should formulate a State canal policy until the election of 

96 History of the Barge Canal 

November, 1903, when the people went to the polls and gave their 
decision to build the 1,000-ton canal. 

The press of course was divided but the line of cleavage was 
unusual and so peculiar as to be difficult of explanation. In general 
the New York city and Buffalo papers were favorable while those 
of territories remote from the canals were opposed, but strangely 
most of the large cities on the canals were against the proposition. 
Rochester was almost solidly opposed. Syracuse, Utica, Albany 
and Troy were largely against it. The smaller canal cities, Rome, 
Oswego, Lockport, Tonawanda and Niagara Falls, were in favor 
of the new canal. So were Plattsburg and Dunkirk. Pough- 
keepsie, Newburgh, Binghamton, Elmira and Watertown were of 
the opposition. Whether these papers simply reflected the senti- 
ment of their respective communities or were chiefly instrumental 
in creating it, cannot definitely be known. We are inclined to the 
latter opinion in many cases. Of the technical press the Engineer- 
ing News was strong in its opposition. But such had been its 
customary attitude toward the New York State canals for many 
years. The Journal of Commerce, New York's great business 
daily, on the other hand was equally strong in its advocacy of the 
canal cause. 

Among the arguments of the opposition the ship canal had a 
large place and much publicity was given to the idea that the 
Federal government should construct this larger waterway. The 
report of the Deep Waterways survey was cited and reviewed as 
well as other ship canal reports. It will be recalled that Major 
Symons said the Deep Waterways report fell flat upon its presen- 
tation because contemporaneous investigation had shown the ques- 
tion of relative economy and efficiency to be largely in favor of a 
barge rather than a ship canal. 

Another form of opposition was the anti-canal propaganda placed 
in railway stations in the shape of circulars and pamphlets on 
such topics as the " Decline in Canal Traffic," " What the Rail- 
roads Have Accomplished " and " Railroads Supersede Canals." 
This form of attack by the railroads had the virtue of at least being 
open, and this cannot be said of all their acts, for canal advocates 
charge that more often than not the methods of these particular 
enemies of the canals are insidious. 

There was also an opposition which arose from those who pro- 
fessedly and doubtless really wanted canal improvement but were 
restrained from favoring the particular form .of improvement de- 

Legislative Contest of 1903 97 

scribed in the pending bill because of certain local changes which 
would result — changes in many instances which would in some 
way affect them or their interests. Of such character was an 
objection to the canalization of the Mohawk river which was given 
rather wide publicity by means of circulars sent out to the public. 
We quote two of the ten results which according to this circular 
would follow the carrying out of such a scheme. From the stand- 
point of the present the other eight predicted results become inter- 
esting reading, but the two we are choosing attacked the project on 
purely engineering grounds and were absurd when the circular 
was written. In the light of what has now been done even the 
layman can perceive the absurdity. 

" The canalizing of the Mohawk river," reads the circular, " would 
change and contract its present current and cause it to overflow the 
New York Central railroad and carry away their tracks, culverts 
and bridges. When the river breaks up in the spring and often also, 
during the winter, it overflows its banks and the ice rushes down 
with great force which would greatly damage if not totally destroy 
all of the permanent structures of the canalized river. 

" The idea of canalizing the historic Mohawk river sounds well 
and may be captivating to the minds of many, but when the matter 
is reasoned out in all its bearings and stripped of its romance it 
becomes an impracticability if not an impossibility." 

We have been considering for some little time measures and argu- 
ments which were chiefly opposed to the canal bill, but both sides 
were equally active. While the legislative contest was going on, 
organizations in favor of the canals were effected in many parts of 
the state and representatives were sent to Albany to appear at the 
various hearings. Also meetings were held and resolutions were 
adopted. The organizations which had backed canal agitation 
through all these latter years kept constantly in close touch with 
the legislative situation. Another organization, which we have not 
mentioned previously but which was older than any of the others 
and had consistently supported every measure for canal improvement 
since the original State canal was begun and had even favored a 
proposition to connect the Great Lakes by canal with the Atlantic 
ocean as early as 1784, the Chamber of Commerce of the State of 
New York, adopted a strong canal resolution and sent copies of it to 
the Governor and the members of the Legislature. Throughout its 
long history this organization has counted among its members some 
of the most eminent men of the state and nation. 

98 History of the Barge Canal 

A piece of pro-canal propaganda put out by the New York men 
during this time was known as the " Canal Primer," or giving it its 
more comprehensive title, " The Canal System of New York State ; 
What it was ; What it is ; What it has done for the Commonwealth 
and the Nation, and what benefits the Empire State will derive from 
the proposed improvements." In the form of questions and answers 
this pamphlet covered in a fairly complete manner the field of the 
origin, development and influence of the canal system of the state. 

As we return now to the canal bill and trace its further course 
through the Legislature we can do no better than to follow closely 
the written account of one who was in the thick of this legislative 
battle and to whose zeal and watchfulness is due much if not the 
greater portion of the credit for the success of the canal issue. And 
we may profitably quote with considerable freedom the exact word- 
ing of this account. It is a part of Senator Henry W. Hill's 
Waterways and Canal Construction in New York State. 

" Notwithstanding the declaration in party platforms," says 
Senator Hill, speaking of this particular canal bill, " a majority of 
the Republican leaders in both branches of the Legislature were 
opposed to its passage. . . . The opposition had left nothing 
undone to dissuade legislators from voting for it. It was character- 
ized as a colossal scheme, whoUy unwarranted in this age when 
canals were fast becoming a thing of the past; and it was declared 
that in the march of civilization waterways were giving way to rail- 
ways, and a mule on the towpath was no longer a competitor of the 
colossal locomotive hauling from 50 to 75 loaded cars of 80,000 
pounds capacity. Sarcasm, repartee and denunciation were freely 
indulged in by the press and in the debates on the measure." 

The canal bill was reported out of the Senate canal committee on 
March 12, having been amended so as to include the Champlain canal 
and carrying the appropriation of $101,000,000. On March 17 the 
Lewis bill was reported. This was the bill, it will be recalled, which 
provided for the appointment of a commission to negotiate with the 
Federal authorities relative to the construction of a ship canal across 
New York state. Senator Davis, the introducer of the canal bill, 
was successful in securing a position on the calendar for his bill 
ahead of the Lewis bill and it was advanced without debate to the 
order of third reading on March 17, with the understanding that 
it would be debated on the third reading and such amendments would 
be offered then as might have been offered in the Committee of the 

Legislative Contest of 1903 99 

Another element entering into the contest was the position taken 
by the two Republican senators from Erie county, Senators Hill and 
Davis, with reference to the excise and mortgage tax bills, which 
the Republican majority had planned to pass. These men insisted 
that the election pledge of the party be redeemed and the canal 
proposition be carried through before they would support these other 
bills. Since their votes were necessary for the passage of these 
measures, they had the whip-hand. 

The canal referendum measure was reached on the Senate calendar 
on March 24 at 11 :4s a. m. Thereupon Senator Lewis moved that 
the bill be recommitted to the canal committee with instructions that 
it be reported at once, amended by striking out all after the enacting 
clause and inserting in lieu thereof his bill authorizing the negotia- 
tions with the United States Government. In support of his motion 
Senator Lewis made an elaborate speech against the canal bill, in the 
course of which he read resolutions purporting to have been signed 
by more than a hundred distinguished New Yorkers, endorsing his 
measure. The attitude of these signers was questioned and in reply 
to telegrams of inquiry replies were received from some of them 
before the vote was taken, stating that they had signed under mis- 
apprehension and were really in favor of the canal referendum. 

We do not need to follow the debates nor the many proposed 
amendments. The contest lasted for hours. There is only one 
feature among those brought out in the speeches that we care to 
mention here and this is a statement made by Senator Davis as to 
why Buffalo was so deeply interested in canal improvement. We 
speak of it simply because it refutes a rather prevalent idea in regard 
to Buffalo's attitude. 

This idea, as Senator Davis said, was that Buffalo wanted the 
handling of the grain transfer. But this had never amounted to 
more than 50 cents a ton and the traffic had dwindled to almost 
nothing. This was not the incentive which actuated Buffalo ; rather 
it was the prospect which a large canal offered of making that city 
an iron and steel center capable of delivering its products at tide- 
water for a lower price than could be done from any other point on 
the continent or perhaps in the world. 

" Therefore," said Senator Davis, if we may quote a sentence here 
and there from his speech, " instead of the old grain traffic paying 
us never over 50 cents per ton, we propose to foster an industry that 
will pay to our people from $5 to $20 per ton to be expended in 
labor. This means an enormous increase in population along the 

100 History) of the Barge Canal 

Niagara frontier. We propose making Buflfalo the greatest manu- 
facturing center on the lakes. At the same time we will be able to 
furnish all kinds of iron and steel material to all local points through 
the state and to New York city at prices that cannot be equalled any- 
where in the country. This will ctilminate in manufacturing all 
along the canal, and will in a few years make the canal, and the river 
as well, the greatest manufacturing sections in the world. Buffalo 
has practically forgotten the grain traffic in view of the bright future 
opening up in other lines." 

After this short digression we return to the battle being waged 
in the Senate chamber on that twenty-fourth day of March, 1903, 
and for the remainder of the chapter we shall quote directly and at 
considerable length from Senator Hill's account, selecting passages 
from his Waterways and Canal Construction in New York State. 

" The obstacles interposed to the passage of the measure were such 
as to call for the utmost skill on the part of its friends to avert them. 
Direct and insidious attacks by way of proposed amendments were 
made upon it. Fortunately, the Hon. Thomas F. Grady, the most 
skilled parliamentarian then in the Senate, was on the alert to repel 
every move made to check the progress of the measure. He was in 
the Legislature from 1877 to 1889, and had been in the Senate con- 
tinuously from 1896 to the time under notice. He was then leader 
of the minority, and exerted a powerful influence upon his Demo- 
cratic colleagues in the Senate. During the debates, which continued 
five and a half hours, he received a special message from Charles F. 
]\lurphy, the leader of Tammany Hall, which read as follows : 

" ' My dear Senator : I desire to again remind you of the vital 
importance of doing everything in your power towards the passage 
of the canal bill, framed by the Canal Association of Greater New 
York. Aside from other considerations that should induce our sup- 
port of this measure, is the fact that among the many distinguished 
citizens of our city who are agitating its passage, are many good and 
valued friends of the organization.' 

" Senator Grady was already earnest in his support of the measure, 
but the impartation of this information to the other legislative mem- 
bers of Tammany Hall had a most salutary effect upon their attitude 
toward the measure." 

" No parliamentarian ever exhibited greater tact during the entire 
day, or more materially aided in the passage of a great measure than 
did Senator Grady on that occasion. His steadfastness and fidelity 
to all canal measures — and there have been many, in support of 

Legislalhe Contest of 1903 101 

which he has successfully led a solid Democratic minority — entitle 
him to the lasting gratitude and grateful remembrance of all the 
people interested in the commercial development of the State." 

" During the debate on this measure the Senate galleries were 
thronged, and an intense interest prevailed. Those of us in charge 
of the measure were keenly apprehensive lest there be some waver- 
ing in the ranks of its supporters, or through some other parliamen- 
tary attack of its opponents, that it fail of passage." 

" On the final roll-call, after all adverse amendments had been 
voted down, the canal referendum'- measure received the affirmative 
votes of 32 Senators, and there were 14 votes against the measure 
on its final passage." 

" In some respects the contest in the Senate was one of the most 
dramatic ever witnessed. It was the culmination of a movement 
starting with the abolition of tolls in 1882, and then for the enlarge- 
ment of locks and deepening of the prism ; thereafter for the 
improvement known as the Seymour-Adams plan ; and finally the 
projection of the barge canal proposition. Such a movement extend- 
ing over a period of two decades very naturally aroused deep 
interest, and its issue was fraught with extraordinary consequences 
to the commerce of the State. 

" Parliamentary contests usually involve matters that are largely 
temporal'in character, which may be modified from year to year; 
but this project was fraught with momentous consequences to the 
State in that if it passed the Legislature and were approved by the 
people, it authorized a bond issue of one hundred and one millions, 
running over a period of eighteen years, which under a constitutional 
amendment then pending was likely to be extended over a period of 
fifty years. It so far transcended in importance all ordinary parlia- 
mentary contests that it called forth the best efforts of all who had 
any part in it, either in or out of the Legislature. 

" During the long and strenuous debate the friends of the measure 
were intense in their advocacy of it and were called upon to defend 
its engineering, its fiscal and constitutional provisions, all of which 
were assailed by the opponents, who were equally resolute in their 
attacks upon it. It was the largest measure ever submitted to or 
considered by a legislative body in this country, and naturally 
aroused the deepest interest. 

" The pro-canal press of the State was jubilant over the passage 
of the canal measure and spoke in complimentary terms of Senators 
Davis, Hill, Grady and Green, upon whom largely rested the burden 

102 History of the Barge Canal 

of carrying the measure through the Senate. Much credit is also 
due to the other senators who, although less conspicuous in the 
debates, by their votes made it possible for the canal bill to pass the 
Senate by a large majority vote. 

"After the canal bill had passed the Senate, it was transmitted to 
the Assembly on March 25th, and a motion was made to advance it 
to the order of second reading ; whereupon several amendments were 
offered by Assemblymen George M. Palmer, Edwin A. Merritt, 
John T. Dooling,' John Pallace, Jr., William V. Cooke, Daniel W. 
Moran, Olin T. Nye, George H. Whitney, Charles S. Plank and 
Samuel Fowler. It was evident that the bill had encountered very 
fierce opposition in that body. Assemblyman John McKeown of 
Brooklyn immediately moved a call of the House, which was had. 
Assemblyman Palmer moved that the bill with the amendments be 
made a special order on second and third reading for Tuesday, March 
31st, and that motion was determined in the negative. Thereupon 
Assemblymen Jean L. Burnett and Fred W. Hammond moved 
further amendments to the bill and after some discussion of the 
motion of Assemblyman Fowler, the bill, together with all amend- 
ments, was made a special order on second and third reading, for 
Thursday, March 26th, immediately after reading the journal. 

" On the day named, when the canal bill was reached on the 
calendar, Assemblyman Palmer spoke in favor of his amendments ; 
and, after a discussion by other members of the Assembly, including 
Assemblyman Charles F. Bostwick, of New York, the introducer of 
the measure. Assemblymen Robert Lynn Cox of Erie, James T. 
Rogers of Broome, and others, all of the Palmer amendments were 
voted down, as were also all other amendments to the measure that 
had been proposed. The opposition, however, of Assemblymen 
Palmer, Moran and Pallace was continued down to the final vote on 
the measure. 

" Several Republican members who had offered amendments to the 
bill withdrew them during the discussion, and before the final vote 
Assemblyman Palmer reintroduced the same amendments and 
insisted on a roll call on each amendment so introduced by him. The 
roll call occupied two hours of the time of the Assembly and all of 
his amendments were voted down. 

"Assembyman Rogers, the leader of the Assembly, in withdrawing 
his amendment, stated that he considered that the canal advocates 
were entitled to have the referendum measure submitted to the 
people in the form in which they had framed it, and advised all 

Legislative Contest of 1903 103 

Republicans to vote down the various amendments that had been 
proposed. Other assemblymen took a similar position; and after a 
discussion running through the entire day, far into the evening, the 
bill passed the Assembly by 87 affirmative votes to 55 votes against it. 

" The bill had been reached at 1 1 .30 o'clock in the morning. 
Thirty-six amendments were ofifered to it altogether in the Assembly 
and most of them were debated until 6 p. m., when voting began on 
the amendments and continued for two hours. 

"Assemblyman Cox made a strong speech on the bill, as did 
Assemblymen Charles W. Hinson and Anthony F. Burke, all of Erie 
county. The burden of the debate, however, fell upon Assemblyman 
Charles F. Bostwick of New York, the introducer of the measure, 
who had given the bill much study during the legislative session. 

"At the conclusion of the vote in the Assembly, George H. Ray- 
mond of the Merchants' Exchange of BuiTalo, remarked : ' Today 
has witnessed the culmination of eight years of labor on the part 
of the business interests of the State to secure for all time to our 
people the enjoyment of a free waterway between the Great Lakes 
and the sea. . . . We are now to undertake the greatest public 
work ever proposed in this country, and the results will be beyond 
the wildest dreams of its friends.' 

" On April 7th, at 11. 35 a. m., Governor Odell gave his official 
approval to the canal referendum measure in the presence of Senator 
George A. Davis and myself, and Messrs. G. K. Clark, Jr., John D. 
Trenor of the Greater New York Canal Association, and S. C. Mead, 
secretary of the Merchants' Association of New York; and it 
became chapter 147 of the laws of 1903 of New York." 


Contest Transferred to Electorate of State — Text of Bill — Special Fea- 
tures: Cost to Be Borne by Whole State: Route Largely River Canal- 
ization: Principal Canal Dimensions: Canal Board the Governing Body: 
Governor's Responsibility: State Engineer Directly Responsible: Man- 
ner of Making Contracts: Certain Restrictions — Final Contest On — 
Campaign of Education — Dinner at Buffalo — Campaign Organizations 

— Xew York City Press — Canal Literature — Endorsement by Labor 
Unions — Support through Political Parties- — Nature of Opposition — 
Sample of Its Literature — Anti-Canal State Convention — Letter Issued 
by Sixteen Senators — Specimen of Unscrupulous Literature — Canal 
Dinner at Utica — • Various Meetings — Public Debates — School Debates 

— Other Meetings — Xew York City the Chief Battle Ground — Repara- 
tion for Opposition to Original Canal — City Organization — Dinner to 
Metropolitan Press — Cart-Tail Campaign — Mass Meeting at Produce 
Exchange — Supreme Court Decision Used by Opposition — Publication 
of Letter by Canal Men — Demonstration of Electric Towage — Names 
of Certain Men Responsible for Success of Canal Cause. 

THE legislative contest of 1903, as we have just seen, was most 
heated, but the final victory was by no means won with the 
signature of the Governor. Indeed the campaign had only 
begun. The two armies simply had transferred their battlefield from 
the Legislature to the electorate of the whole state. 

But before viewing the new engagements of the opposing forces 
we shall look for a little while at the bill itself, and first we shall 
transcribe it in its entirety, both because it is an important document 
and should be read if one is to understand the scope and character 
of the new venture and also in order that it may be at hand for 
various references we shall have to make to it from time to time. 
At the end of this transcript we shall speak briefly of some of the 
outstanding features of the law. 

In various publications of this law it has been found useful to 
print marginal annotations consisting of descriptions, expressed in 
the fewest possible words, of the subject matter of the text. These 
annotations, which may well be called marginal heading and sub- 
heads, are repeated in the present reprint. Also at the close of the 
several sections there are printed, enclosed within parentheses, refer- 
ences to amendments affecting the particular section or pertinent 


Canal Campaign of 1903 105 

explanatory statements. Sections added by later amendments are 
given their proper places and what they relate to is briefly stated, 
but the text is not included. With the exceptions just noted the 
following copy is the bill which was voted on by the people in 1903, 
not the \zw as it has been amended from time to time. 

Chapter 147, Laws of 1903 

AN ACT making provision for issuing bonds to the amount 
of not to exceed one hundred and one miUion dollars for 
the improvement of the Erie canal, the Oswego canal and 
the Champlain canal and providing for a submission of the 
same to the people to be voted upon at the general election to 
be held in the year nineteen hundred and three. 

Became a law, April 7, 1903, with the approval of the Governor. Passed, three- 
fifths being present. 

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate 
and Assembly, do enact as follows: 

Section I. There shall be issued in the manner and at the Bonds, 
times hereinafter recited, bonds of the State in amount not 
to exceed one hundred and one million dollars, which bonds 
shall be sold by the State, and the proceeds thereof paid into 
the State treasury and so much thereof as shall be necessary 
expended for the purpose of improving the Erie canal, the 
Oswego canal and the Champlain canal, and the procurement 
of the lands required in connection therewith. The said bonds Bonds exempt, 
when issued shall be exempt from taxation. (See sec. I of 
chap. 302, Laws of 1906, and sec. i of chap. 66, Laws of igio. 
Emergency appropriation of $3,654,000, chap. 706, Laws of 1915. 
Bond issue of $27,000,000, chap. 570, Laws of 1915.) 

§ 2. The Comptroller is hereby directed under the super- Bond issue, 
vision of the Commissioners of the Canal Fund, to cause to 
be prepared the bonds of this State, to an amount not to 
exceed one hundred and one million dollars, the said bonds to 
bear interest at the rate of not to exceed three per centum per interest, 
annum, which interest shall be payable semi-annually in the 
city of New York. Said bonds shall be issued for a term of Term, 
not more than eighteen years from their respective dates of 
issue, and shall not be sold for less than par. The Comptroller g^,^ ^^^ 
is hereby charged with the duty of selling said bonds to the advertising, 
highest bidder after advertising for a period of twenty consecu- 
tive days, Sundays excepted, in at least two daily newspajwrs 
printed in the city of New York and one in the city of Albany. 
Said advertisements shall contain a provision to the eflfect that 
the Comptroller in his discretion may reject any or all bids 
made in pursuance of said advertisements, and in the event of 
such rejection, the Comptroller is authorized to readvertise for 
bids in the manner above described as many times as in his 

106 Hisloty of iha Barge Canal 

judgment may be necessary to effect a satisfactory sale. The 
said bonds shall not be sold at one time; not more than ten 
million dollars in amount thereof shall be sold during the two 
years next ensuing after this act takes effect and thereafter they 
shall be sold in lots not exceeding ten million dollars at a time 
as the same may be required for the purpose of making partial 
or final payments on work contracted for in accordance with the 
provisions of this act, and for other payments lawfully to be 

Tax. made under the provisions hereof. There is hereby imposed for 

each year after this act goes into effect until all the bonds 
issued under the authority of this act shall be due, an annual 
tax of twelve one-thousandths of a mill upon each dollar of 
valuation of the real and personal property in this state sub- 
ject to taxation, for each and every one million dollars or part 
thereof in par value of said bonds issued and outstanding in 
any of said fiscal years, the annual amount of such tax to be 
computed by the Comptroller, which taxes shall be assessed, 
levied and collected by the annual assessment and collection of 
taxes of each of such years in the manner prescribed by law 
and shall be paid by the several county treasurers into the treas- 
ury of the State, and the proceeds of said tax, after laying the 

Sinking fund, interest due upon the outstanding bonds shall be invested by the 
Comptroller imder the direction of the Commissioners of the 
Canal Fund, and, together with the interest arising therefrom, 
shall be devoted to the sinking fund which is hereby created, 
payment from which shall only be made to the extinguishment 
of the indebtedness created by the sale of the aforesaid bonds as 
the said bonds become due and for no other purpose whatever. 
(See sec. 2 of chap. 302, Laws of 1906, and chap. 241, Laws 
of 1909, also sec. 2 of chap. 66, Laws of 1910, and chap. 186, 
Laws of 1912. Rate of interest on certain bonds, 4J4 per cent, see 
chap. 787, Laws of 1913.) 
§ 3. Within three months after issuing the said bonds or 

ment of work, some part thereof the Superintendent of Public Works and 
the State Engineer are hereby directed to proceed to improve 
the Erie canal, the Oswego canal and the Champlain canal in 

Route Eastern ^^^ manner hereinbelow provided. The route of the Erie 

Division, Erie canal as improved shall be as follows : Beginning at Congress 
street, Troy, and passing up the Hudson river to Waterford; 
thence to the westward through the branch north of Peoble's 
island and by a new canal and locks reach the Mohawk river 
above Cohoes falls ; thence in the Mohawk river canalized 
to Little Falls; thence generally by the existing line of the 
Erie canal and feeder aroiuid through Little Falls to the 
Mohawk river above the upper dam ; thence in the Mohawk 
river canalized with the necessary cutting through bends to 
a point just east of Jacksonburg; thence generally by the 
existing line of the Erie canal to Herkimer; thence in the 
valley of the Mohawk river following the thread of the stream 

Canal Campaign of 1903 107 

as much as practicable to a point about six miles east of 
Rome ; thence over to and down the valley of Wood creek to Route, Middle 
Oneida lake ; thence through Oneida lake to the Oneida river ; ° naf""' ^"* 
thence down the Oneida river cutting out the bends thereof 
where desirable, to Three River Point ; thence up the Seneca 
river to the outlet of Onondaga lake; thence still up the 
Seneca river to and through the State ditch at Jack's reefs; 
thence westerly generally following said river to the mouth of 
Crusoe creek; thence substantially paralleling the New York 
Central railroad and to the north of it to a junction with the 
present Erie canal about one and eight-tenths miles east of 
Clyde; thence following substantially the present route of the 
canal with necessary changes near Lyons and Newark to Fair- 
port ; thence curving to the south and west on a new" location 
joining the present canal about one-half mile west of the R9ute, Western 
crossing of the Irondequoit creek ; thence following the old canal""' "° 
canal to a point about one and one-fourth miles west of Pitts- 
ford; thence following the existing line of the canal for nearly 
a mile ; thence running across the country south of Rochester 
to the Genesee river near South Park ; here crossing the river 
in a pool formed by a dam ; thence running to the west of the 
outskirts of Rochester and joining the present canal about 
one mile east of South Greece ; thence following substantially 
the route of the present Erie canal with the necessary change 
in alignment near Medina to a junction with the Niagara river 
at Tonawanda, thence by the Niagara river and Black Rock 
harbor to Buffalo and Lake Erie. The existing Erie canal 
from Tonawanda creek to Main street, Buffalo, shall be 
retained for feeder and harbor purposes. The route of the 
Oswego canal as improved shall be as follows : Beginning at canah' 
the junction of the Oswego, Seneca and Oneida rivers, it 
shall run northward to a junction with Lake Ontario at 
Oswego; following the Oswego river' canalized and present 
Oswego canal. The route of the Champlain canal as improved Champlain 
shall be as follows : Beginning in the Hudson river at Water- 
ford, thence up the Hudson river canalized to near Fort 
Edward ; thence via the present route of the Champlain canal 
to Lake Champlain near Whitehall. The routes as specified 
herein shall be accurately laid down upon the ground by the 
State Engineer, who is hereby authorized and required to 
make such deviations therefrom as may be necessary or desir- 
able for bettering the alignment, reducing curvature, better 
placing of structures and their approaches, securing better 
foundations, or generally for any purpose tending to improve 
the canal and render its navigation safer and easier. The Erie, p^^^_ 
Oswego and Champlain canals shall be improved so that the 
canal prism shall, in regular canal sections, have ^ minimum 
bottom width of seventy-five feet and a minmum depth 
of twelve feet and a minimum water cross section of eleven 


History of the Barge Canal 


culverts, etc. 

Guard gates. 


Buoys, etc. 

hundred and twenty-eight square feet, except at aqueducts and 
through cities and villages where these dimensions as to width 
may be reduced and cross section of water modified to such 
an extent as may be deemed necessary by the State Engineer 
and approved by the Canal Board. In the rivers and lakes 
the canal shall have a minimum bottom width of two hundred 
feet, minimum depth of twelve feet and minimum cross section 
of water of twenty-four hundred square feet. The locks 
for the passage of boats on the Erie, Oswego and Cham- 
plain canals shall be single locks, except at the flight of three 
locks near ^^^aterford, and of two locks at Lockport which 
shall be double locks. The locks shall have the following 
governing dimensions : Length between hollow quoins, three 
hundred and twenty-eight feet, clear width twenty-eight feet, 
minimum depth in lock chamber and on mitre sills eleven feet, 
and with such lifts as the State Engineer may determine. The 
locks shall be provided with all necessary approach walls by 
passes, gates and valves, with hydraulic or electrical power for 
the manipulation of gates and valves, for expediting the pas- 
sage of boats through the locks, and for lighting the locks and 
apnroaches. All locks having over eight feet lift shall be 
fed through a culvert running parallel with the axis of the 
lock in each wall with the necessary feed and discharge pipes 
and controlling valves. All single locks shall be so located 
with reference to the axis of the canal, that a second lock can 
be conveniently added aloneside the first should this hereafter 
be found neces'sr^ . The Erie, Oswego and Champlain canals 
shall be provided M-ith all necessary soilHvays, culverts and 
arrangements for stream crossing ; the bottom and sides shall 
be p"dd1ed wherever necessary, and the sides where necessary 
"sliall have vertical masonry walls, or slope wash walls; guard 
locks and stop gates shall be built where required, and in 
canal sections guard gates shall be built at distances apart 
not exceeding- ten miles, all as may be determined by the 
State Engineer. Xew bridges shall be built over the canals 
to take the place of existing bridges wherever required, or 
rendered necessary by the new location of the canals. All 
fixed bridges and lift bridges when raised shall give a clear 
passage way of not less than fifteen and one-half feet between 
the bridge and the water at its highest ordinary navigable 
stage. The dams required for the canalization of the river 
sections of the Erie, Oswego and Champlain canals shall be 
so located and shall be built of masonry or timber as the 
State Engineer shall determine to be best. ^^'herever, in 
the canalized rivers or in Oneida or Cross lakes, it may be 
deemed hv the State Engineer necessary for the safety and 
convenience of navigation, spar, gas, can or lantern buoys, 
range lights or range targets shall be provided, placed and 
maintained. The eastern end of the existing Erie canal at 

Canal Campaign of 1903 109 

its junction with the Hudson river shall be improved as Lock at 
folloYirs : A lock shall be built in place of existing lock Erie canal and 
number one and the weigh lock near it at Albany with the H'^'^™ "™''- 
following governing dimensions : length between hollow 
quoins one hundred and seventy-eight feet, clear width 
twenty-eight feet, minimum depth on mitre sills eleven feet, 
and the canal prism shall be improved as far as existing 
lock number two by giving it depth of twelve feet and a 
minimum width of fifty-five feet. And at the point of diver- 
gence from the present Erie canal near Fort Bull a lock shall port BuU. 
be constructed with the following governing dimensions : 
Length between hollow quoins one hundred and seventy-eight 
feet, clear width twenty-eight feet, minimum depth on mitre 
sills eleven feet, and shall be so located and constructed that 
boats navigating the proposed improved canal will be able 
to lock into the present Erie canal at this point; and that 
portion of the present Erie canal lying between the point 

above described and the Orville or Butternut creek feeder , , , 
, ,, , . . , - , , 1 1^1 f ■ OrviUe feeder, 

shall be mamtamed as a navigable canal and feeder of its 

present size and depth. The outlet of Onondaga lake into 
the Seneca river shall be enlarged to the size prescribed for ouSet.''^^ 
the prism of the Erie and Oswego canals, and the necessary 
improvements shall be made in Onondaga lake to permit canal 
boats to reach the head of the lake, and from the head of the i^^™ ^^* 
lake and extending southeastwardly into Syracuse where there 
shall be constructed a harbor or basin twelve hundred feet in 
length, two hundred and twenty feet in width and twelve feet 
in depth. From the pool in which the canal will cross the improvement 
Genesee river south of Rochester, there shall be constructed at Rochester, 
generally on the site of the old feeder northwardly towards 
Rochester, a canal of the size prescribed for the prism of the 
Erie, Oswego and Champlain canals and about two and one- 
quarter miles long ending at the present Erie canal. The 
northerly end of this canal for a distance of fifteen hundred 
feet shall be enlarged into a basin or harbor with a width of 
one hundred and seventy feet and depth of twelve feet. The -Water supply, 
additional water supply required for the improved Erie canal 
shall be provided by developing and utilizing existing sources, 
by constructing a storage reservoir on Limestone creek, improv- 
ing the storage of Cazenovia lake, and building storage reservoirs 
on the upper Mohawk near Delta and on West Canada creek 
near Hinckley, with all necessary feeders for connecting these 
and existing reservoirs with the improved canal. The supply of 
water for the Erie canal shall be sufficient for the uses of the 
canal with at least ten million tons of freight carried on it 
per year. (Amended by chap. 740, Laws of igos, chap. 710, 
Laws of 1907, chap. 508, Laws of 1908, chap. 83, Laws of 1910, 
and sec. 3 of chap. 801, Laws of 1913. Improvement of canal 
basin at Albany, chap. 263, Laws of 1914. Retention of old 


History of the Barge Canal 

of lands, etc. 

surveys and 

Service of 
notice of 

for lands, etc. 

canal from Waterford to Erie lock No. 2, chap. 243, Laws of 
1913. Retention of old canal from Schuylerville to Northumber- 
land, chap. 412, Laws of 1914. The terminals mentioned in this 
section were affected by sec. 4 of chap. 746, Laws of 1911.) 

§ 4. The State Engineer may enter upon, take possession of 
and use lands, structures and waters, the appropriation of 
which for the use of the improved canals and for the pur- 
poses of the work and improvement authorized by this act, 
shall in his judgment be necessary. An accurate survey and 
map of all such lands shall be made by the State Engineer 
who shall annex thereto his certificate that the lands therein 
described have been appropriated for the use of the canals of 
the State. Such map, survey and certificate shall be filed in 
the office of the State Engineer, and a duplicate copy thereof, 
duly certified by the State Engineer to be such duplicate copy 
shall also be filed in the office of the Superintendent of Public 
W^orks. The Superintendent of Public Works shall thereupon 
serve upon the owner of any real property so appropriated a 
notice of the filing and of the date of filing of such map, sur- 
vey and certificate in his office, which notice shall also 
specifically describe that portion of such real property belong- 
ing to such owner which has been so appropriated. If the 
Superintendent of Public Works shall not be able to serve 
said notice upon the owner personally within this state after 
making efforts so to do, which in his judgment are imder the 
circumstances reasonable and proper, he may serve the same 
by filing it with the clerk of the county wherein the property 
so appropriated is situate. From the time of the service of 
such notice, the entry upon and the appropriation by the State 
of the real property therein described for the purposes of the 
work and improvement provided for by this act, shall be 
deemed complete, and such notice so served shall be conclusive 
evidence of such entry and appropriation and of the quantity 
and boundaries of the lands appropriated. The Superintend- 
ent of Public Works may cause a duplicate copy of such 
notice, with an affidavit of due service thereof on such owner, 
to be recorded in the books used for recording deeds in the 
office of the coimty clerk of any county in the state where 
any of the property described in such notice is situated; and 
the record of such notice and such proof of service shall be 
prima facie evidence of the due service thereof. The Court 
of Claims shall have jurisdiction to determine the amount of 
compensation for lands, structures and waters so appropriated. 
(Amended by sec. 4 of chap. 365, Laws of 1906, chap. 196, 
Laws of 1908, chap. 273, Laws of 1909, chap. 468, Laws of 
1911, chap. 736, Laws of 1911, and sec. 4 of chap. 801, Laws of 
1913. Part payment for appropriated lands, chap. 708, Laws of 
1913. Time for filing existing claims extended, chap. 640, Laws 
of 1915- Appropriation of rights and easements, chap. 420, 

Canal Campaign of 1903 1 1 1 

Laws of 1916. Appraisal of lands, structures and waters pro- 
vided by chap. 335, Laws of 1904. See also chap. 195, Laws of 
1908, chap. 286, Laws of 1910, chap. 334, Laws of 1910, and 
chap. 448, Laws of 1915.) 

§ 4-a. (This section, inserted by chap. 63, Laws of 1910, 
relates to the necessary removal of cemeteries, etc.) 

§ S. Whenever any lands now used for canal purposes shall Sale of 
u J J 1 r 1 r t abandoned 

be rendered no longer necessary or useful for such purposes canal lands. 

by reason of the improvement hereby directed, the same shall 
be sold in the manner provided by law for the sale of aban- 
doned canal lands and the net proceeds thereof paid into the 
State treasury, and so much thereof as shall be necessary 
shall be applied to the cost of the work hereby directed. 
(Amended by chap. 244, Laws of 1909, and chap. 511, Laws 
of 1915. The sale of abandoned canal lands is provided in 
chap. SO, Laws of 1909, constituting chap. 46 of the Consolidated 
Laws, portions of which are amended by chap. 299, Laws of 

§ 5-a. (This section, inserted by chap. 180, Laws of 1909, 
relates to bridges over portions of present canals to be aban- 
doned and navigable streams.) 

§ 6. All the work herein authorized shall be done by con- „ 

■nr *,,, ,,f^x-- t^ontracts, 

.ract. before any such contract shall be made the State Engi- maps, plans, 
neer shall divide the whole work into such sections or por- ^ '^' 
tions as may be deemed for the best interests of the State in 
contracting for the same, and shall make maps, plans and 
specifications for the work to be done and materials furnished 
for each of the sections into which said work is divided and 
shall ascertain with all practicable accuracy the quantity of 
embankment, excavation and masonry, the quantity and qual- 
ity of all materials to be used and all other items of work to 
be placed under contract and make a detailed estimate of the 
cost of the same, and a statement thereof with the said maps, 
plans and specifications, when adopted by the Canal Board, 
shall be filed in his office and a copy tliereof shall be filed in 
the office of the Superintendent of Public Works and publicly 
exhibited to every person proposing or desiring to make a pro- 
posal for such work. The quantities contained in such state- „., 
ment shall be used in determining the cost of the work accord- 
ing to the different proposals received, and when the contracts 
for any such work are awarded, every such statement, with the 
maps, plans and specifications and all other papers relating to 
such work advertised and which may be necessary to identify 
the plan and extent of the work embraced in such contracts 
shall be filed in the office of the State Engineer with a certifi- 
cate of the Superintendent of Public Works stating the time 
and place of their exhibition. No alteration shall be made in ^iterations 
any such map, plan or specification, or the plan of any work 
under contract during its progress, except with the consent and 


History of the Barge Canal 

Extra work. 


Opening of 
bids and 
awaid of 

approval of the Superintendent of Public Works and the State 
Engineer, nor unless a description of such alteration and such 
approval be in writing and signed by the parties making the 
same and a copy thereof filed in the office of the State Engi- 
neer. No change of plan or specification which will increase 
the expense of any such work or create any claim against the 
State for damage arising therefrom shall be made unless a 
written statement, setting forth the object of the change, its 
character, amount and the expense thereof, is submitted to 
the Canal Board, and their assent thereto at a meeting when 
the State Engineer was present is obtained. !s'o extra or 
unspecified work shall be certified for payment unless said work 
is done pursuant to the written order of the State Engineer 
and payment therefor shall not be made unless approved by 
the Canal Board. (Amended by chap. 394, Laws of 1907, and 
sec. 6 of chap. 736, Laws of 191 1. Contract obligations limited, 
sec. 3 of chap. 302, Laws of 1906, and sec. 3 of chap. 66, Laws 
of 1910.) 

§ 7. All the work herein specified shall be done by contract 
executed in triplicate as required by law and entered into by 
the Superintendent of Public Works on the part of the State 
after having been advertised once a week for four successive 
weeks in two newspapers published in the city of New York, 
one of which shall be published in the interests of engineering 
and contracting and one each in the cities of Albany, 
Rochester. Buffalo and Syracuse and one in each county where 
the particular piece of work advertised or some portion of the 
same is located, and it shall be the duty of the Superintendent 
of Public W^orks to combine in one notice of advertisement as 
many pieces of work as practicable. The advertisements shall 
be limited to a brief description of the work proposed to be 
let with an announcement stating where the maps, plans and 
specifications are on exhibition and the terms and conditions 
under which bids will be received and the time and place 
where the same will be opened, and such other matters as may 
be necessary to carry out the provisions of this act. The pro- 
posals received pursuant to said advertisements shall be pub- 
licly opened and read at the time and place designated. Every 
proposal must be accompanied by a money deposit in the form 
of a draft or certified check upon some good banking institu- 
tion in the city of Albany or New York, issued by a National 
or State bank in good credit within the state, and payable at 
sight to the Superintendent of Public Works for five per 
centum of the amount of the proposal. In case the proposer 
to whom such contract shall be awarded shall fail or refuse 
to enter into such contract within the time fixed by the Super- 
intendent of Public Works, such deposit shall be forfeited to 
the State, paid to the State Treasurer and become a part 
of the canal fund. In case the contract be made such deposit 

Canal Campaign of 1903 113 

shall be returned to the contractor. In cases where the esti- 
mated cost of the materials and work does not exceed ten 
thousand dollars, the period of advertising may be abridged Advertising 
and the work may be advertised by circular letters and post- a^^'^s^"^- 
ers when, in the judgment of the Superintendent of Public 
Works approved by the Canal Board, such course may be 
desirable or necessary. The Superintendent of Public Works Rejection o£ 
may reject all the bids and readvertise and award the con- ''''^^■ 
tract in the manner herein provided, whenever in his judg- 
ment the interests of the State will be enhanced thereby. No Excessive 
contract which exceeds by more than ten per centum the gross 
cost of the work as estimated by the State Engineer or by 
more than twenty per centum the cost of any item therein 
shall be awarded unless such award shall be approved by the 
State Engineer and the Canal Board. The contract in a form contract 
to be approved by the Attorney-General shall be made with made, 
the person, firm or corporation who shall offer to do and per- 
form the same at the lowest price and who shall give adequate 
security for the faithful and complete performance of the con- securities, 
tract, and such security shall be approved as to sufficiency by the 
Superintendent of Public Works, and as to forrrt by the 
Attorney-General and shall be at least twenty-five per centum 
of the amount of the estimated cost of the work according 
to the contract price. If in the judgment of the State Engineer „ . 
the work upon any contract is not being performed according suspend, or 
to the contract or for the best interests of the State, he work, 
shall so certify to the Canal Board, and the Canal Board 
shall thereupon have power to suspend or stop the work under 
such contract while it is in progress and direct the Superin- 
tendent of Public Works, and it shall thereupon become his 
duty, to complete the same in such manner as will accord with 
the contract specifications and be for the best interests of the 
State, or the contract may be cancelled and readvertised and 
relet in the manner above prescribed, and any excess in the 
cost of completing the contract beyond the price for which 
the same was originally awarded shall be charged to and paid 
by the contractor failing to perform the work. If at any time 15% excess, 
in the conduct of the work under any contract, it shall become 
apparent to the State Engineer that any item in the contract 
will exceed in quantity the engineer's estimate by more than 
fifteen per centum, he shall so certify to the Canal Board and 
the Canal Board shall thereupon determine whether the work 
in excess thereof shall be completed by the contractor under 
the terms and at the prices specified in the contract or whether 
it shall be done or furnished by the Superintendent of Public 
Works, or whether a special contract shall be made for such 
excess in the manner above prescribed. Every contract shall ^5^'^^^°^^ 
reserve to the Superintendent of Public Works the right to cancel contract 
suspend or cancel the contract as above provided and to com- work!"™'' 


Histoiy of the Barge Canal 

Board of 

Deputy State 


Payments to 


where work is 
in progress. 

plete the same or readvertise and relet the same as the Canal 
Board may determine, and also shall reserve to the Superin- 
tendent of Public Works the right to enter upon and com- 
plete any item of the contract which shall exceed in quantity 
the engineer's estimate by more than fifteen per centum or to 
make a special contract for such excess, as the Canal Board 
may determine. (Amended by chap. 267, Laws of 1909. Con- 
tract obligations limited, sec. 3 of chap. 302, Laws of 1906, and 
sec. 3 of chap. 66, Laws of 1910.) 

§ 8. The Governor may employ, at a compensation to be 
fixed by him, five expert civil engineers to act as an Advisory 
Board of Consulting Engineers, whose duty it shall be to 
advise the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public 
Works, to follow the progress of the work and from time to 
time to report thereon to the Governor, the State Engineer and 
the Superintendent of Public Works, as they may require or 
the board deem proper and advisable. The State Engineer 
may appoint and at pleasure remove a special deputy, at a 
compensation to be fixed by him with the approval of the Canal 
Board, who may, under the direction of the State Engineer, 
perform on the work of improvement authorized by this act 
all the duties of the State Engineer, except as commissioner, 
trustee or member of any board. The State Engineer may 
also appoint and at pleasure remove such number of resident 
engineers in addition to those now authorized by law as he 
may deem necessary for the work of improvement hereby 
authorized and may prescribe and define their duties. 
(Amended by sec. 8 of chap. 736, Laws of 1911.) 

§ 9. The Superintendent of Public Works may, from time 
to time, upon the certificate of the State Engineer, pay to the 
contractor or contractors a sum not exceeding ninety per 
centum of the value of the work performed, and such certifi- 
cate of the State Engineer must state the amount of work 
performed and its total value, but in all cases not less than 
ten per centum of the estimate thus certified must be retained 
until the contract is completed and approved by the State 
Engineer and the Superintendent of Public Works. (Amended 
by chap. 416, Laws of 1914.) 

§ la. All measurements, inspections and estimates shall be 
made by the State Engineer and the engineers and inspectors 
appointed by him. The Superintendent of Public Works may, 
in the performance of the duties devolving upon him by this 
act, rely upon the certificates of the State Engineer and 
his assistants as to the amount, character and quality of the 
work done and material furnished. 

§ II. While the work contemplated in this act is in progress 
the canals upon which work is actually being done shall not 
be open for navigation earlier than May fifteenth and shall 
be closed on or before November fifteenth, except that por- 

Canal Campaign of 1903 115 

tions thereof may be opened earlier and closed later when in 
the judgment of the Superintendent of Public Works such a 
course will not be detrimental to the progress of the work of 

§ 12. All questions which under the provisions of this act Canal Board 
are to be determined by the Canal Board, shall be decided by a 
majority vote of all members of such board, and a full and 
complete record of all proceedings of such board shall be 
preserved, and a certified copy of its determination or action 
upon any question arising under this act shall be transmitted 
to the State Engineer. 

§ 13. The sura of ten million dollars is hereby appropriated, Appropriation 
payable out of the moneys realized from the sale of bonds as 
provided by section two of this act, and from the proceeds of 
the sale of abandoned lands as provided in section five of this 
act, to be expended to carry out the purposes of this act ; 
said sum of ten million dollars to be paid by the Treasurer 
on the warrant of the Comptroller, after due audit by him, 
upon the presentation of the draft of the Superintendent of 
Public Works to the order of the contractor if for tonstruc- 
tion work, or to his own order if for the completion by him 
of any unfinished contract or for advertising for miscellaneous 
expenses connected with the said work, or upon the presenta- 
tion of the drafts of the State Engineer for supervising or» 
engineering expenses in connection with said work, or upon 
the presentation by the Comptroller of accounts for mis- 
cellaneous expenses, or on the presentation of awards by the 
Court of Claims for compensation for lands appropriated as 
provided in section four of this act or damages caused by the 
work of improvement hereby authorized. (Amended by sec. 
13 of chap. 365, Laws of 1906.) 

§ 14. Any surplus arising from the sale of bonds and the Surplus 
sale of abandoned lands over and above the cost of the entire "" 
work of the improvement of the canals as herein provided for 
shall be applied to the sinking fund for the payment of said 
bonds. (See also sec. 4 of chap. 302, Laws of 1906, and sec. 
4 of chap. 66, Laws of loio.) 

§ 15. This law shall not take effect until it shall at a gen- ^j^°JU 
eral election have been submitted to the people, and have effect, 
received a majority of all the votes cast for and against it at 
such election; and the same shall be submitted to the people 
of this State at the general election to be held in November, 
nineteen hundred and three. The ballots to be furnished for 
the use of voters upon the submission of this law shall be in 
the form prescribed by the election law and the proposition 
or question to be submitted shall be printed thereon in sub- 
stantially the following form, namely: "Shall chapter (here 
insert the number of this chapter) of the laws of nineteen 
hundred and three, entitled 'An act making provision for 

1 1 6 HisioTS of the Barge Canal 

issuing bonds to the amount of not to exceed one hundred 
and one million dollars for the improvement of the Erie 
canal, the Oswego canal and the Oiamplain canal, and pro- 
viding for a submission of the same to the people to be voted 
upon at the general election to be held in the year nineteen 
hundred and three' be approved?" 

§ i6. (This section, added by chap. 494, Laws of 1907, relates 
to the lease and sale of water.) 

§ 17. (This section relates to the sale of materials encoun- 
tered in excavation and not necessary for improvement work. 
It was added by chap. 320, Laws of 1909, and amended by chap. 
149, Laws of 1915.) 

This is what is known familiarly as the Barge Canal Law. Antici- 
pating the affirmative vote of the people, we may for a few minutes 
discuss this bill as the act under which the construction of the new 
canal was soon to begin. 

Noticing only a few of its many features, we observe first in order 
of textual sequence that the cost was to be borne by the whole state 
and not by the canal-bordering counties, as recommended by the 
State Canal Committee in its report of January 15, 1900. The Com- 
mittee's financial plan had soon run against the objection of probable 
unconstitutionality and had been discarded. Moreover, it had been 
shown that the cities along the canal, even the cities of New York 
and Buffalo alone, paid so large a share of all State expenditures, 
every public improvement as well as the proposed canal, that the 
small remaining portion, something less than ten per cent, was 
insignificant when distributed over the remainder of the state. 

The route laid down in the bill deviates so widely from the course 
of the existing canal that it calls for comment. This divergence of 
routes, however, is simply the result of a difference between two 
types of canal-building that are even more widely separated than 
the locations themselves; it is the difference between the canalized 
river and the independent canal. Up to the commencement of the 
Barge canal New York had had little experience in river canalization, 
as we understand the term today, except in the use of the Hudson 
river, which had never been considered as really a part of the canal 
system. Its nearest approach to river canalization had been the 
channels in Oneida and Black rivers, which had been improved 
slightly for a rather limited use by steamboats, and a few stretches 
in the Oswego and Seneca rivers, along the banks of which tow- 
paths had been built. Indeed river canalization is the product of 
comparatively recent engineering science. 

Canal Campaign of 1903 I 1 7 

The historical setting in New York state of the changes from 
river to canal and back again is somewhat interesting. New York 
is blessed by nature above all her sister states on the Atlantic sea- 
board in the matter of watercourses. She possesses a chain of rivers 
stretching more than three-quarters of the distance to the great 
inland seas that lie in the heart of the continent, and the mightiest 
of these rivers has cut a sea-level channel through the coast range 
of mountains, while no other river reaching the Atlantic ocean in 
this country is navigable to within many miles of this range. Before 
the advent of the white man the Indians for untold years had been 
using these natural avenues of travel and the first European settlers 
followed the same routes. But when they tried to adapt the streams 
to larger commercial use, they ran afoul of troubles too difficult for 
the skill of their day to overcome. Not only in America but in 
Europe as well this was the experience at that time. As Benjamin 
Franklin in a letter from London in 1772 quaintly puts it, " Rivers 
are ungovernable things, especially in hilly countries. Canals are 
quiet and very manageable." The first attempt to provide improved 
navigation in New York state was made by a private company and 
its field of endeavor lay in the beds of the natural streams. Before 
the State had begun its own first canal, however, the usual practice 
of the time had been adopted. In their report of 181 1 the canal com- 
missioners had said, " Experience has long since exploded in Europe 
the idea of using the beds of rivers for internal navigation." But 
now, at the beginning of the Barge canal, engineers had succeeded 
in making rivers sufficiently quiet and manageable to be used for 
navigation purposes and the State canals were to go back to the 
channels used for nobody knows how many centuries by the 
aboriginal possessors of the land. 

The Barge canal law was explicit in general in its requirements 
as to the route, but at the same time it was not so rigid as to pre- 
clude minor deviations. In the course of construction it has hap- 
pened that several changes of location have been made and in a 
few cases the desired change has run counter to the law and it has 
been necessary for the Legislature to pass an amendment before 
that particular new location could be occupied. It will be noticed 
that some cities, Syracuse and Rochester especially, are not on the 
direct route, but are reached througli spur lines. In the case of 
Schenectady and Utica, also, shorter spurs have been constructed 
to reach their respective terminals. 

1 1 8 History of the Barge Canal 

For convenience it seems well to state here concisely the sizes of 
prism and locks and the amount of clearance at bridges, as set 
forth in the law. The minimum prism dimensions in land line 
were: Bottom width, 75 feet; depth of water, 12 feet; water cross- 
section, 1,128 square feet, except at aqueducts and through cities 
and villages, where width and cross-sectional areas might be modi- 
fied. Minimum prism dimensions in river and lake channel: Bot- 
tom width, 200 feet; depth of water, 12 feet; cross-section of water, 
2,400 square feet. Governing dimensions of locks : Length between 
hollow quoins, 328 feet; clear width, 28 feet; minimum depth of 
water in lock chamber and on miter-sills, 1 1 feet. Clearance between 
water-surface and bridges, not less than 15^ feet. 

The law made the Canal Board the supreme governing body for 
constructing the new canal. This board consists of six elective 
State officials, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Secretary of State, the 
Comptroller, the Treasurer, the Attorney-General and the State 
Engineer and Surveyor, and one appointive official, the Superin- 
tendent of Public Works. The board was created in 1826, the next 
year after the completion of the original Erie canal, and has always 
had considerable authority over canal affairs, but the Barge canal 
law conferred new powers, the intent being so to place the respon- 
sibility for the proper conduct of the work upon this body of men, 
high in the government of the State and directly answerable to the 
people for their actions, that there could be no possibility of a 
repetition of former alleged abuses. 

The Canal Board, although it originated many years ago, is in 
exact accord with present-day business methods. Great modern 
corporations find it advisable to have their affairs governed by a 
small body of men who are chosen because of their peculiar quali- 
ties of keen business acumen and sound judgment and their irre- 
proachable characters and who are in a position to have a broad 
grasp of the whole business without being worried with adminis- 
trative cares. In the construction and maintenance of its canals 
the State is engaged in a mighty business enterprise. The people 
of the state may be called the shareholders in this business and not 
only is the money they have invested at stake but the success of the 
enterprise means added prosperity to them as individual citizens as 
well as to the State as a whole. In this great State corporation the 
Canal Board occupies the position of Board of Directors, and the 
stockholders, namely, the people of the state, directly elect six mem- 
bers, while the seventh is the representative of the other chief 
elective State official, the Governor, who is not himself a member. 

Canal Campaign of 1903 119 

The wisdom of providing such sagacious and faithful oversight as 
this Board has given to the undertaking is seen throughout the 
whole course of Barge canal construction. 

Upon the Governor also the Barge canal law placed more respon- 
sibility than he had formerly had in canal matters. Through a 
newly-created board, which was ordered to report to him, he was 
supposed to keep in close touch with the new canal at all times. 
The law laid on him the appointment of this body and it was to 
consist of five expert civil engineers, who were to act as an Advis- 
ory Board of Consulting Engineers and whose duty it should be 
to advise the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public 
Works and to keep a watchful oversight on the work as it 

Direct responsibility for planning and construction devolved upon 
the State Engineer and in order that he might have proper assist- 
ance the law gave him power to appoint a Special Deputy State 
Engineer and also such number of Resident Engineers as he 
deerhed necessary, the Special Deputy to have immediate charge of 
the entire new work and the Resident Engineers to have charge of 
the several departments and sections. 

The influence of some of the unfortunate circumstances attend- 
ing the nine-million improvement is plainly discernible in this law. 
To this earlier experience may be ascribed the fuller powers of the 
Canal Board and the State Engineer. The new board of Consult- 
ing Engineers and through them the increased care on the part of 
the Governor were precautionary measures dictated by this same 
experience. Especially in the matter of awarding contracts and 
prosecuting contract work was the influence of the former project 
seen. New restrictions were added. The usual measures to safe- 
guard the State were all there but their provisions had been so 
tightened as to make them operate with more stringent force. The 
thing which the law aimed chiefly to prevent was the unbalanced 
bid, that bete noire of the engineer, from which by various devices 
he has ever attempted to escape while yet he should retain a form 
of proposal and contract flexible enough to provide for emergen- 
cies. To accomplish this result the law directed that the State 
Engineer should make public not only the estimated quantities of 
each item of material or labor for any piece of work it was pro- 
posed to put under contract, but also his estimate of cost for each 
of these items. Then it forbade the awarding of a contract on any 
bid the total of which exceeded the engineer's total by more than 
lo per cent or any item of which exceeded the engineer's estimated 

120 History of the Barge Canal 

cost of that item by more than 20 per cent, unless the State Engi- 
neer and the Canal Board should formally approve such contract. 
As a further precaution against an unbalanced bid a contractor 
in performing his work was not to be allowed to exceed in quantity 
any item of work more than 15 per cent without authority from the 
Canal Board, and this Board, if it saw fit, instead of letting the 
original contractor perform this work in excess of the 15 per 
cent might order the Superintendent of Public ^\'orks to do it or 
might decide to have it done by awarding a new contract. 

The law ordered that all plans and specifications should be pre- 
pared by the State Engineer and approved by the Canal Board 
before the letting of contracts and that after the contracts were 
awarded these plans and specifications should be carried out with- 
out alteration except as the State Engineer and the Superintendent 
of Public Works should consent to and approve some alteration and 
a description of such alteration and such approval should be put 
in writing and signed by these officials and a copy filed in the office 
of the State Engineer. No extra or unspecified work was to be 
certified for payment unless such work was done pursuant to llie 
written order of the State Engineer and no payment for this work 
could be made until it had been approved by the Canal Board. The 
form of contract to be entered into with the contractor was to 
have the approval of the Attorney-General. Since the records of 
canal transactions were open to the public the people might at all 
times know exactly what was being done in prosecuting the great 
undertaking they were being asked to approve. 

There have been times during the years of construction when 
some of the provisions of this law have seemed to involve a useless 
amount of red tape, and doubtless these restrictions have been the 
cause .of various delays, but the chief thing aimed at has been 
accomplished — the canal has been built and there has been no 
suspicion that anything connected with its construction has been 
other than what it should be. This condition of course is due in 
large part to the high character of the men charged with the duty 
of administering canal affairs, but in general the same may be 
said of some of those who had authority over the nine-million 
improvement but who by implication suffered unjust blame, largely 
because they were working under a law that contained loopholes 
through which the unscrupulous might escape. 

Now we come to the real battle between the canal and the anti- 
canal forces. The preceding skirmishes had been important and 
were bitterly fought, but in a sense they had been only prelimi- 

'. Ai*'-'^^. — — .^ 

'■I. f' «; ^ s 

Canal Campaign of 1903 121 

nary and the victories already won might still be turned to defeat, 
since the question was being submitted for final decision to the 
electorate of the whole state. Now the decisive conflict was on. 
Now the case was being tried before the court of last resort — 
the people — and from the plebiscite about to be given there was 
no appeal. It is not to be wondered at then that both sides were 
alive to every opportunity and that neither spared any pains to 
achieve its ends. 

The campaign which was waged was distinctively a campaign of 
education. Probably no other question of economic import has 
ever been so carefully set before the people of the state. And yet 
on the day when the decision was to be made one-eighth of all the 
voters who went to the polls, a sixth of a million persons, failed 
to vote either for or against the canal proposition. But even so 
the proportion of those who took interest enough to cast a vote was 
much larger than is the case with most public questions subrriitted 
to popular referendum. Why the largest single project ever under- 
taken by a state should have been a matter of indifference to so 
many of its citizens seems strange on first thought. The reason is 
to be found in the popular conception of the importance of political 
campaigns. The majority of the people have come to look upon 
these as the momentous events in our political history and this 
view dwarfs any economic question brought to vote, even though 
it be of the gravest consequence. 

Why this should have been a campaign of education is readily 
discernible. The defeat of the amendments proposed by the Con- 
stitutional Convention of 1867 was still remembered, and these 
had failed of approval largely because the people did not understand 
their provisions. The canal bill dealt with intricate and technical 
subjects — finance, engineering, a route largely divergent from 
the existing canal, adequate water-supply, a plan with novel fea- 
tures for letting contracts — and moreover the expenditure involved 
was enormous. If for no other reason the project might easily 
fail from lack of understanding, and canal advocates were well 
aware of this danger. With a powerful army of active hostility to 
be met and overcome, with the vast throng of the interested but 
uninformed to be instructed, with those in the wide, outlying 
regions to be convinced that the canal would benefit all, and, worst 
of all, with the mighty concourse of the apathetic to be quickened 
into life, canal men saw that their only chance for success lay in 
conducting a vigorous and convincing campaign of education. 
Naturally the opposition adopted the same tactics. 

'22 History of the Barge Canal 

The first event we shall record in the canal campaign scarcely 
belongs in that category; it partakes rather of the nature of a 
jubilee, but there were certain results coming from this occasion 
which made it worthy of notice. On May 9, 1903, the Merchants' 
Exchange of Buffalo gave a dinner to General Francis V. Greene, 
Major Thomas W. Symons, John N. Scatcherd and Edward A. 
Bond, members of the State Committee on Canals, and to the 
legislators of Erie county, who had been at the forefront of the 
legislative contest. The dinner was attended by a large number of 
prominent men, chiefly from Buffalo, and speeches on the canal 
question were made. Its significance lies in the example set for 
commercial bodies in other cities throughout the state to hold 
similar public meetings for the discussion of canal matters; also 
in the trend given to arguments to be used later in gaining votes for 
the cause. 

Canal men realized of course that they had a hard fight on their 
hands and they organized their forces to meet the occasion. E^rly 
in May a Canal Improvement State Committee was formed to 
direct the whole campaign, with headquarters in New York city. 
This committee was composed of Gustav H. Schwab, Henry B. 
Hebert and Frank Brainard of New York, John W. Fisher and 
Robert R. HeflFord of Buffalo, Frederick O. Clarke of Oswego 
and Frank S. Witherbee of Port Henry. Closely associated with 
them and cooperating in some of the work were George Clinton, 
chairman of the Canal Enlargement Committee of Buffalo, and 
E. L. Boas, treasurer of the Canal Association of Greater New 
York. John A. Stewart of ^'ew York and George H. Raymond 
of Buffalo were appointed secretaries, !Mr. Raymond taking charge 
of the literary bureau, to prepare and disseminate canal literature. 
Mr. Schwab was chosen chairman of this State Committee and he 
labored zealously for five months or more, so zealously indeed that 
toward the end of October his physician advised him to go away 
for a needed rest. Charles A. Schieren, ex- Mayor of Brooklyn, 
succeeded to the chairmanship for the remaining two weeks of the 
campaign and his activity put new life into the cause at a time 
when it was much needed. 

To reach the voters this committee worked through four main 
channels — newspapers, printed literature, such as pamphlets and 
the like, speakers at public meetings, and labor unions or other 
organizations. The opposition carried on a campaign in much the 
same way. 

The pro-canal endeavors v.ere concentrated along the line of the 
canal and especially at its termini. The outlying territory was con- 

Canal Campaign of 1903 123 

ceded to the opposition, but, as will appear later, before the cam- 
paign ended the war was carried also into the enemies' country. 

Under the State Committee Howard J. Smith of Buffalo was 
appointed to take charge of the newspaper work. Mr. Smith had 
been doing this kind of work for several years, especially during 
the publicity campaign of 1900-1901. He organized the new work 
as before and was soon supplying country weeklies with '' plate " 
and the city papers with special articles and interviews. It is said 
that during the final months of the campaign plate matter was 
being furnished ' to 750 papers. To Mr. Smith personally was 
assigned much of the work of devising arguments for canal improve- 
ment, preparing articles, and writing and revising speeches and 

The New York city press was in favor of the canal project with 
only two important exceptions — the Sun and the Herald. The 
Sun was unalterably opposed, keeping up a daily attack and pouring 
out invective, ridicule and argument in nearly every edition. Mr. 
Schwab tried to change the attitude of the Herald by cabling James 
Gordon Bennett in Europe and urging him to instruct its editors 
to support the movement, but no reply was received. The Buffalo 
papers were solidly with the canal men and the rest of the state 
was lined up just about as it had been through all the years of this 

In the way of canal literature a vast amount of letters, pam- 
phlets, leaflets and posters was distributed. The Canal Improve- 
ment Text Book, a pamphlet of 168 pages, was the most important in 
this class. It was prepared in large measure for the use of speakers 
and editors, but the edition was ample and it found its way to the 
public generally. It was a veritable storehouse of information in 
compact form. It contained the substance of the canal bill, con- 
siderable portions of both the State Engineer's report of the pre- 
liminary survey and the report of the State Committee on Canals, 
testimony of experts on the reliability of the surveys and estimates, 
opinions of prominent men and representative commercial organ- 
izations regarding the necessity of the canal, speeches delivered at 
legislative hearings, reports on the canals of certain foreign 
countries and numerous other bits of pertinent canal data. In 
addition to the Text Book a large edition of the Canal Primer was 
printed and distributed. This is the pamphlet which has already 
been mentioned as having been put out in the form of questions 
and answers. 

A systematic effort was made to secure endorsement of the canal 
Question by labor unions throughout the whole state. This subject 

124 History of the Barge Canal 

came up early in the spring, even before the bill passed the Legis- 
lature, and W'arren C. Browne, then of Buffalo, was given charge 
of this phase of the campaign. The project was presented to nearly 
every labor organization in the state and was generally approved. 
It was a matter naturally calculated to appeal to labor unions. 
Even the building of the canal would give employment to many 
thousands through a decade or more and if expectations were 
realized the canal would usher in a period of industrial development 
in which labor might share bountifully. This work among the 
unions proved worth while. Their vote did much to offset adverse 
sentiment in the interior counties. An analysis of the vote shows 
that in the strongest anti-canal sections a good sized minority vote 
was polled wherever there were labor organizations. 

Of a somewhat similar character was the attempt made to get 
support through the political parties. Committees conferred with 
the speakers bureaus of the Democratic, Republican, Citizens' Union, 
Socialist Labor, and Prohibition parties. The Citizens' L'nion 
agreed to have its campaign speakers advocate the canal. Another 
type of mass activity was the systematic work undertaken among 
the Italians throughout the state. This was in the efficient hands 
of John J. D. Trenor, a member of the Xew York Produce Ex- 
change, who by reason of a long residence in Italy and a mastery of 
the Italian tongue was eminently fitted for the task. 

Before we proceed with the remaining activities of the canal 
forces, which we desire to follow in a somewhat orderly chronologi- 
cal fashion down to the eve of the election, we shall see what the 
opfHDsition was doing. 

In respect to funds the opponents had a decided advantage over 
the canal men. They seemed never to lack money. It was charged 
that the railroads were back of most of the anti-canal activity and 
were paying the greater part if not all of the expenses. 

The opposition of the large cities along the line of the canal is 
hard to explain. One would naturally expect them to favor the 
project. It is not fair to say that railroad influence and personal 
interests were responsible for all of this attitude. There were, 
doubtless, multitudes of men with no individual interests at stake 
who steadfastly believed that the proposed canal was not for the 
highest good of the State. But at the risk of being thought preju- 
diced we dare to assert that at bottom most of the opposition was 
due to some interest of a personal nature, the railroad influence 
predominating. And this personal interest, working through the 
Dress, molded public sentiment in various areas of the state and 

Canal Campaign of 1903 125 

thus gave to the man with no personal interest an opinion which he 
accepted as his own. This is not saying, however, that individual 
interests did not hold sway to a considerable extent also in the 
canal camp. But speaking by and large the canal advocates were 
more often actuated by altruistic motives, while the opponents were 
generally influenced by consideration of personal gain. 

The opposition of the rural sections might naturally be expected ; 
the same attitude had existed for years. The reasons for it, how- 
ever, need n.ot concern us now; it is sufficient to say that the 
organized opposition played upon this sentiment, while those of the 
other side did what they could to change it. 

An anti-canal bureau was organized in Brooklyn, from which 
literature was distributed. But the center of activity was in Roch- 
ester and strangely the Chamber of Commerce of that city was 
at the forefront of this activity, its secretary, John M. Ives, being 
the director of the anti-canal forces of the state. 

As a sample of the literature distributed by the opposition we 
may cite a pamphlet entitled, " Twenty good reasons why you 
should vote No," compiled under the auspices of the Rochester 
Chamber of Commerce. It embodied editorials from the Engineer- 
ing N'ews, the New York Sun, the Rochester Democrat and Chron- 
icle, Union and Advertiser, Herald and Post-Express, the Utica 
Press, the Albany Argus, the Syracuse Post-Standard, the Bing- 
hamton Leader, the Ithaca Journal and several other papers, also 
speeches made by Senator Merton E. Lewis and ex- Assemblyman 
Brownell of Broome county, and articles written by John A. C. 
Wright, E. B. Norris, master of the State Grange, George Bullard, 
John M. Ives, secretary of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, 
George W. Rafter, D. H. Burrell of Little Falls, and others. 

An anti-canal State convention was held at Rochester and one of 
its chief figures was John I. Piatt of Poughkeepsie. Through Mr. 
Piatt's activities the railroad influence was plainly seen at this con- 
vention and he frankly admitted that the New York Central Rail- 
road was paying his expenses. 

On May 25 there was issued a long circular signed by sixteen 
State senators, who came from the farming districts of the state. 
In effect this was a solemn manifesto warning the people against 
the efforts of New York and Buffalo to carry the canal bill. That 
these cities were to pay for most of this improvement and were 
yearly paying many millions in taxes to the direct benefit of the 
rural communities was entirely ignored. A formal reply to this 

126 Hisiors of the Barge Canal 

circular was put out by the Canal Improvement State Committee 
on June lo. 

The opposition was surely aggressive. That it was also un- 
scrupulous in statement, both in the public press and in other litera- 
ture, is charged by the advocates. If the specimen given below is 
a fair sample, the charge seems to be sustained. It is a handbill 
which was distributed at elevated railroad stations and at other 
places in New York city where people congregated in masses. We 
do not attempt to copy more than the words ; the type and arrange- 
ment were such as to attract attention. It reads as follows : 

" Vote, but vote No on the Barge canal scheme. Beneficiaries : 
Grain speculators, the contractors, the padrones. Who pays for 
it? You. 

" This means higher taxes, direct and indirect. The latter touch 
everybody. Higher rents, higher licenses, heavier expenses, with no 
return. Vote No. 

"If there is any intelligent man who thinks it will benefit the 
State or any section therein or any citizen thereof, save only the 
beneficiaries of the most stupendous graft ever suggested, let him 
vote for the Barge canal. If he is not a grafter and if he has any 
regard for his own interest let him vote No." 

Comment is hardly necessary. In the case of the thinking man 
such literature must often have proved a boomerang. But it was 
not meant for him ; it appealed rather to the discontented, those who 
were ready to see only guile and evil in others. Moreover it was a 
treacherous attack on the Government, an insidious implication that 
the State was willing to countenance " the most stupendous graft 
ever suggested." When we consider the motive underlying this 
attack and know that it was merely a cloak to cover selfish and 
unworthy ends, we appreciate its base character. Of such stuff are 
the acts which constitute the gravest menace to our American ideals. 
If anything like this handbill was issued by canal men, we have 
failed to see it. Their literature was not so sensational ; a becoming 
dignity marked its language and its appeal was to the reason. In 
the end these were the tactics which won. 

In the campaign program of the canal advocates the public meet- 
ing and the speakers bureau held important places. The meetings 
were held all through the summer and fall, increasing in number 
and frequency as election approached, particularly in New York 
city. We cannot enumerate the whole list, but shall mention some 
of the most prominent 

Canal Campaign of 1903 127 

On July 28 a dinner was given in Utica under the auspices of the 
Canal Improvement State Committee. Some three hundred were 
present, business men, editors of local papers and representatives 
from neighboring cities and towns. Horatio Seymour, Jr., ex-State 
Engineer, presided, and one of the speakers was Philip W. Casler, 
ex-president of the State Grange. Aside from the jubilee banquet 
at Buffalo this was the beginning of the State-wide contest. One of 
the speakers called attention to the fact that it was eminently fitting 
that the first gun of the campaign for canal enlargement should be 
fired at Utica, for it was near-by, in Rome, within the same county, 
that the first sod was turned eighty-six years before in the construc- 
tion of the original Erie canal. The influence of this dinner was 
felt throughout the whole immediate vicinity. 

A somewhat similar conference and dinner was arranged at Syra- 
cuse for the editors of Central New York. 

On August I a large meeting was held at Three River Point, a 
summer resort lying at the confluence of Oneida and Seneca rivers, 
which unite to form Oswego river. For years the people of the 
vicinity had been accustomed to hold an immense Farmers' Picnic 
at this place and the location was well calculated to draw a large 
crowd. A like meeting was held at Sylvan Beach, a summer resort 
at the eastern end of Oneida Lake. These two places are well known 
names geographically in Barge canal history, since they stand at 
strategic points in the line of the new canal. Incidentally it may be 
said that new canal construction at Three River Point has wiped 
out the old picnic grounds. 

The various county fairs were convenient occasions for dissemi- 
nating canal ideas, through both literature and public speaking. At 
some of these fairs Governor Odell spoke very cogently for the canal 
project, appealing particularly to the farmers, and as these speeches 
were given wide publicity they must have gained many votes. 

Another form of campaigning was one that was engaged in jointly 
by the opposing sides — debates at public meetings. John I. Piatt 
was the anti-canal exponent and Senator Henry W. Hill and Willis 
H. Tennant of Mayville were severally his opponents. Senator Hill 
and Mr. Piatt met in debate at Troy on October 5 and both were 
scheduled to speak at the same meeting on one other occasion, the 
Wayne county fair, on October 24, but Mr. Piatt and other anti- 
canal speakers did not keep this latter engagement. But most of the 
debates were between Mr. Tennant and Mr. Piatt. They met at 
Plattsburg, Three River Point, Elmira, Utica, Cassadaga, Brocton, 

128 History of the Barge Canal 

Binghamton, Dunkirk, Syracuse and the Chemung county fair. This 
series of debates evoked considerable interest, especially in the rural 
districts, where little concern had been manifested before. The 
speeches were interspersed with anecdote and repartee, much to the 
amusement of the audiences. Mr. Piatt was resourceful in argu- 
ment, a careful student of transportation questions and a skilled 
debater, but Mr. Tennant was no less resourceful and well informed 
and in addition he had the advantage of being in closer touch with 
the temper and conditions of rural communities, understanding their 
prejudices and also what lay back of these prejudices. It is probable 
that on the whole these debates gained votes for the canal. It is 
said, for example, that there was not a single person favorable to 
the canal in Plattsburg before the debate, but at the election seventy 
votes were cast for it ; also that somewhat similar results were shown 
in other towns. 

We have had occasion to mention ^Ir. Piatt several times. He 
was the most aggressive and persistent opponent of the Barge canal 
project during the whole course of its agitation and probably he was 
the most able opponent as well. ^lost of the adversaries were con- 
tent to lay down their arms when the canal forces won at the polls, 
but not so Mr. Piatt. He was not yet beaten. He appealed to the 
courts in an attempt to prove the Barge canal law unconstitutional. 
What was said of him during this campaign is pertinent here. " He 
is the avowed foe," said the New York Times, " not merely of canal 
improvement, but of canals. If he could have his way the canals 
would be abandoned and the railroads would get a monopoly of the 
transportation business. He is not a critic of the plans, nor an advo- 
cate of any particular kind of canal. All canals are equally odious 
to him. Nor is it the frightful sum of one hundred and one millions 
that scares him. If a canal 43 feet deep and 205 feet wide could be 
dug straight across the State from the Hudson to the Lake for a 
dollar and a quarter, he would sturdily oppose the project." 

There was another type of debate which, perhaps, did not influence 
the vote of 1903 but which should be mentioned because of the 
impressions probably left on the minds of the youthful debaters. 
The canal question was well suited to academic discussion and 
students in many educational institutions were eager to get liter- 
ature and engage in debates. And these debates carried the cam- 
paign into the territory where anti-canal feeling was most intense 
and where a professed advocate might not have been given a cour- 
teous hearing. The students naturally were open-minded and had 

Canal Campaign of 1903 129 

not the bias of their elders and the debates must have left some 
impress. Of course the influence from this source could have been 
only a drop in the bucket, but it is a fact that the three canal 
referenda submitted to the people since 1903 have been carried with 
but little efiEort on the part of canal advocates. Except for the 
thorough educational campaign of 1903, this could hardly have 

Of the remaining work throughout the state, except in New York 
city, little more need be given here than an enumeration of the more 
important meetings. The first gathering of size in the southwestern 
part of the state was at Lilly Dale, Chautauqua county, on August 
22. In Jefferson county the campaign was opened at the Republican 
convention. A meeting was held in Troy in August. On September 
16 a large company gathered at the Utica Chamber of Commerce and 
listened to speakers from both camps. At Jamestown on September 
19 a meeting was addressed by a prominent leader in the State 
Grange, who advocated the canal side. The Tonawanda Board of 
Trade held a banquet for its business men, who gave attention to a 
speech favoring the canal scheme. On 'October 15 a canal meeting 
was held in Dunkirk. The next night at a meeting under the auspices 
of the Cohoes Business Men's Association the question of the effect 
the proposed canal would have on the water privileges at Cohoes was 
discussed before an interested audience. Another large meeting was 
held under the auspices of the Troy Chamber of Commerce on Octo- 
ber 27. Two days later a mass meeting was attended by nearly all 
the prominent business men of Lockport. Of course there were 
many other meetings, but this list will suffice. One canal enthusiast 
traveled through the state delivering illustrated lectures on the bene- 
fits of water transportation and showing the need of improved 
channels and adequate terminals if the commerce of the state were 
to be retained. 

But the chief battle ground in this whole campaign was New York 
city and in the end it was New York city that carried the day. The 
canal men from this city had been the first, more than two years 
earlier, to take a firm stand for the 1,000-ton improvement and now, 
when the time came for consummating their work, they all joined 
loyally in the stupendous task and came up to the Bronx on election 
night with nearly three hundred thousand votes to spare, enough, 
after offsetting the adverse vote of a little less than fifty thousand 
in the up-state section, to carry the proposition by close to a quarter 

130 HistoTjf of the Barge Canal 

of a million majority. Lesser New York city, the old city, did even 
better proportionately. The vote in New York county, practically 
the old city, was 252,608 for and 28,979 against, or only about one 
opposed to the project in every ten voters. 

When we recall the events of nearly a century earlier, what a com- 
mentary is this vote upon New York city's appreciation of her canal ! 
In the light of subsequent history we cannot understand the early 
attitude, but when the bill to authorize the original canal was before 
the Legislature in 1817, every member from New York city was 
opposed. In the debate just preceding the vote the most masterly 
speaker had appealed to the members from New York, but to no 
avail. " If the canal is to be a shower of gold," he had said, turning 
to a leading member of the New York delegation, " it will fall upon 
New York ; if a river of gold, it will flow into her lap." This became 
a true picture and in 1903 New York made reparation. Whatever 
may be one's opinion of the value of canals at the present time, he 
must admit that the original Erie canal was the chief factor in retain- 
ing for New York the proud title of Empire State and in making 
New York city the commercial metropolis of the continent. He can- 
not dispute this statement. The fact is too well attested; it can be 
demonstrated with almost mathematical precision. 

New York city was well organized for the contest. The Canal 
Improvement State Committee, the body organized to direct this 
campaign of 1903 throughout the whole state, had its headquarters 
in New York. Here also was the Canal Association of Greater New 
York, which was formed early in 1900, at the beginning of agitation 
for a barge canal, and which had been doing yeoman's service ever 
since. In addition, on September 14, 1903, the canal committee of 
the Produce Exchange organized a Canal Improvement League, 
composed of fifty members of the Exchange, under the leadership of 
Albert Kinkle. It was through these organizations that the various 
interested commercial bodies and the many enthusiastic individuals 
in New York city labored. All through the campaign they worked, 
and ardently at that, but as the time of final decision drew near their 
efforts were multiplied many fold and the contest was closed in a 
whirlwind of fervor, both sides, indeed, being active to the last day. 

We shall mention only the meetings of the last month of the cam- 
paign in New York city. In spite of all that had been done through- 
out the state, canal men were exceedingly apprehensive of the issue 
and an appeal was made to the New York city commercial bodies. 
On October 6 a dinner was given at Delmonico's by the Canal Asso- 

Canal Campaign of 1903 131 

ciation of Greater New York to the editors of the metropoHtan press, 
forty representatives being present, as well as canal advocates from 
various parts of the state. The long articles in the papers as the 
result of this dinner and the subsequent leading editorials that 
appeared almost daily awakened New York city to the importance 
of the measure about to be voted upon. 

To focus the city's aroused attention on the subject in hand these 
activities were followed by a very generous distribution of canal 
literature and a most intensive campaign of cart-tail meetings, the 
latter being under the management of William F. McConnell, of the 
Board of Trade and Transportation. Sixty speakers were engaged 
in this cart-tail campaign and literature was distributed at more than 
i,ooo mass meetings and also at all ferries and many factories. 

On the same day as the press dinner, October 6, the Board of 
Aldermen of the city, at the solicitation of the Canal Association of 
Greater New York, adopted resolutions in favor of the canal project. 

On October 20, under the auspices of the Canal Improvement 
League, there was held a mass meeting on the floor of the Produce 
Exchange. Among the speakers were Mayor Seth Low, two ex- 
Mayors of Brooklyn, Charles A. Schieren and David A. Boody, and 
other men prominent in business, civic and educational affairs. 
George B. McClellan, who became Mayor the next year and who 
had been invited to address the meeting but was prevented from 
attending by a previous engagement, sent a letter expressing his 
sympathy with the canal cause. The League also distributed a great 
number of campaign buttons and badges. 

Almost on the eve of election, on October 26, the United States 
Supreme Court rendered its decision in the case of Perry vs. Haines, 
which held that the Erie canal, though lying wholly within New York 
state, by reason of connecting Lake Erie with the Hudson river 
forms a part of a continuous highway for interstate and foreign 
commerce, also that it is a navigable water of the United States as 
distinguished from a navigable water of the State, and that boats 
navigating this canal are within the contemplation of the maritime 
law, over which the Federal courts exercise admiralty jurisdiction. 

Subsequent experience has shown, that this decision has had little 
efifect on either the practical operation of the canal or the navigation 
upon its waters, but coming as it did, only a week before election, 
the anti-canal press of the state was quick to seize upon it as a deci- 
sion favoring their side, declaring that it dealt a hard blow to the 
State canal. In the few days thereafter there was no adequate 

132 History of the Barge Canal 

opportunity for canal advocates to acquaint the voters with what 
they considered was the true import of the decision. The anti-canal 
use of this decision seems to have been merely by implication rather 
than by definite statement of what its actual effect on the canal would 
be. As a specimen of this type of argimient we may quote from a 
letter addressed to the electorate of New York city on October 29 
by Andrew H. Green, advising a negative vote on the canal referen- 
dum. Without further expatiation Mr. Green simply said, " The 
remarkable decision of the United States Supreme Court given out 
yesterday, establishing admiralty jurisdiction over the Erie canal, is 
another formidable reason against the construction of this barga 
canal, the full effect of which is not yet fully realised." 

The last meetings of the campaign were mass meetings held in 
Cooper Union on October 30 and some other mass meetings held in 
Brooklyn and Staten Island. 

On Monday, November 2, the day before election, all of the metro- 
politan papers except the Sun, the Herald and the Telegram pub- 
lished a letter signed by prominent men in favor of the canal project. 
The men signing this letter were Seth Low, R. Fulton Cutting, Chas. 
A. Schieren, Gustav H. Schwab, William F. King, Robert Campbell, 
Thos. J. McGuire, Frank S. Witherbee, Lewis Nixon, George B. 
McQellan, Bird S. Coler, Oscar S. Straus, David A. Boody, Fred 
W. Wurster, Henry Hentz, Herman Robinson, William McCarroll 
and Henry B. Hebert. 

There was another event occiuring on the eve of election which 
must have had some influence on the vote. Moreover, there was 
that about this particular event which would lead one to suspect that 
it was adroitly timed by the opposition for its most advantageous 
entry into the canal campaign. The International Towing and Power 
Company had obtained permission from the Superintendent of Pub- 
lic Works during the summer to install a mile of track on the towing- 
path at Schenectady and on October 28 a public demonstration of 
electric propulsion was made in the presence of Governor Odell, 
other State officials, practical canal men, forwarders, boatmen and 
other men of affairs. It will be recalled that representatives of this 
company had appeared before the legislative canal committees the 
preceding winter and had proposed to equip the existing canal with 
their device and thus render unnecessary the 1,000-ton enlargement. 
In its mechanical working this demonstration was considered in gen- 
eral a success. The haulage was performed by means of a tractor, 
dubbed an " electric mule," which ran upon a slightly elevated rail. 

Canal Campaign of 1903 1 33 

First one, then two and finally four loaded boats of the maximum 
capacity then prevailing on the canal, 240 tons, were drawn at a rate 
of nearly five miles an hour, and this was done with a quick start 
and a notable absence of bank wash. Then two electric mules towed 
boats in opposite directions, showing how vessels might meet and 
pass when hauled by this device. The officers of the company 
declared that they stood ready to equip the existing canals at their 
own expense and to operate the system upon such terms as the State 
should dictate, asking the right to transfer this privilege to the new 
canal when completed. The Superintendent of Public Works was 
inclined to regard the proposition favorably, but consent was with- 
held for the time being. 

The anti-canal press was quick to exploit this event also, stating 
that the demonstration proved the utter uselessness of expending 
the vast sum contemplated by the referendum. In this instance too 
there was not time for the canal men to attempt a refutation of the 
claims made by their adversaries. 

There are several reasons for suspecting that anti-canal influence 
was back of this demonstration. • We are not attempting to argue the 
case but simply to point out certain peculiar facts, in order that the 
reader may understand the significance of the event. The most con- 
spicuous experiments in electric propulsion on the State canals have 
been made in 1895 and 1903 and in each instance they have occurred 
only a few days before the people were to vote on a referendum for 
canal improvement and each experiment has ended with the demon- 
stration made just prior to election. The time of making such exper- 
iments public, within two or three days of election, is in itself 
suspicious, even if nothing else were. It may be well to add that 
some steel construction experts of the State Engineer's department 
saw the trial in 1903 and their computations showed the avowed 
cost of installing the system claimed by the company to be many 
times too small. 

The result of the election we have already seen. To the enthusi- 
asm, the unremitting labor and the generosity of its canal advocates 
the State of New York is indebted for its modernized waterway. 
And the canal forces, by the way, had but a pittance to carry on their 
campaign and almost all they had was raised by voluntary con- 
tributions from private individuals, people who generally had no 
financial interests at stake. 

We have not attempted to burden the narrative of the Barge canal 
agitation with a multitude of the names of those who were respon- 

134 History of ihe Barge Canal 

sible in various ways for its successful fruition. We have been con- 
tent to mention a few now and then and perhaps we have not always 
been fortunate in our selection and have failed to include those to 
whom much credit is due. But of course fuller lists are to be had; 
they may be found in the legislative journals, in the minutes of State 
waterway and other conventions and in various other chronicles. We 
would refer the reader especially to two large volumes of the Buffalo 
Historical Society Publications, Volumes XII and XIII, which are 
made up entirely of canal papers and devote the major portions of 
their pages to the history of this particular time. 

But before we enter upon the period of actual canal planning and 
construction we desire to quote a few paragraphs from a writer in 
one of these volumes, in which he enumerates a half dozen critical 
periods of this time and gives the name of the man who was found 
for each emergency. The article was written by George H. Ray- 
mond, secretary of the Canal Improvement State Committee, and the 
portion we quote runs as follows : 

" In a chronicle of this kind it is impossible to give proper credit 
to all of those entitled to it, as each canal friend did his best in his 
own manner; but there are certain critical times that stand out in 
bold relief when it can be clearly shown that the right man was found 
at the right time to save the canal system of the State. 

" To the Honorable George Clinton is due the credit for keeping 
the canal spirit alive when as a member of the Assembly he secured 
an appropriation for lengthening one lock on the Erie canal. 

" To the Honorable Henry W. Hill of Buffalo is due the credit 
of saving the canals, when, after a most bitter struggle in 
the Constitutional Convention of 1894, to which he was a delegate, 
he succeeded in putting in the clause prohibiting their sale and aban- 

"To the Honorable Thomas C. Piatt of New York is due the 
credit of saving the canals when he forced the Committee on Rules 
of the Assembly in igoo-'oi to report out the bill appropriating 
$200,000 for the survey and estimates which finally made the 1,000- 
ton barge canal possible. 

"To the late lamented Alfred Haines of Buffalo is due especial 
credit for the final successful result of the great canal struggle as he, 
almost alone, raised the funds that made it possible to carry on the 
educational campaign which finally brought the barge canal plan to 
a successful vote. 

Canal Campaign of 1903 \'ib 

" To the Honorable George Clinton is again due especial credit 
for his marvellous diplomacy in keeping the canal friends in Buffalo 
and New York from allying themselves with the Democratic party 
in 1902, as its defeat, which occurred, would have killed all future 
efforts, as the Republican leaders were not friendly to the project 
and would have been able to say that the canal people and the 
Democrats were both defeated at that election. 

" To the late Honorable Timothy Ellsworth of Lockport is due 
especial credit for the brilliant coup made by him, assisted by the 
Honorable Thomas F. Grady of New York, when he brought the 
$200,000 canal survey bill of 1900 out of the finance committee which 
with the Honorable Frank Higgins, afterward Governor, as chair- 
man, had a majority opposed to the bill. No more brilliant parlia- 
mentary battle was ever fought or more gallantly won than this by 
Senator Ellsworth." 

No canal history would be complete without the mention of another 
name — a man interested especially in the canals of New York, his 
own State, but also well known up and down the whole Atlantic 
coast wherever canal projects were being agitated — the most per- 
sistent advocate of them all, unflagging in his zeal both in season and 
out of season; not always with good judgment, to be sure, and often 
to the annoyance of unwilling listeners or men busy with other 
affairs ; somewhat disappointed and acrimonious, perhaps, when he 
discovered that the Barge canal had so changed conditions that the 
old-time boatman had no place upon it; but now that those days of 
vexation are passed, one who will be remembered as the man to whom 
canals were a consuming passion — William C. Clark. We, would 
quote concerning this man from another writer in this same volume 
of the Buffalo Historical Society Publications. 

" Previous to 1894," says Mr. M. M. Wilner, of the editorial staff 
of the Buffalo Express, " the defense of canal interests was left 
largely to the boatmen themselves. Captain ' Bill ' Clark of Con- 
stantia was the chief press agent. He wrote his name ' Captain W. 
C. Clark,' but it should properly go into canal history as ' Bill,' since 
that was what everybody called him. It was Captain ' Bill's ' chief 
business in life to travel up and down the State, calling at the news- 
paper offices and keeping them informed on the needs of the canal 
from the boatmen's viewpoint. He haunted the Capitol during 
legislative sessions ; he hung around the hotels at all State conven- 
tions ; everybody laughed at him ; no one paid much attention to him. 
But there was really quite an important political power back of the 

136 History of the Barge Canal 

quaint old agitator. He claimed to represent and, in a sense, did 
represent the votes of the boatmen. There were at that time over 
4,000 canal boats in use. Estimating that each boat represented five 
voters, the managing politicians could easily see that here was a force 
which could not be antagonized without some danger. There was, 
of course, a great business element in the State supporting the canal 
also, but it was the voice of the organized boatmen which was most 
in evidence among the newspapers and politicians in those years." 
It may be added that probably Captain Clark's chief claim to grat- 
itude lies in his activities in trying to keep the waterway question a 
live issue during the days when the outlook for the New York canals 
was darkest, the days when the pendulum of public unfriendliness 
had swung to the extreme of disparagement and most of the lateral 
branches were abandoned, the interval before the first of the modern 
advocates rose up and brought about the beginning of the series of 
improvements that have continued down to the present time. 



Period of Engineering Prominence — Rank of Barge Canal as an Engineer- 
ing Feat — 'Engineering Problems the Results of Social, Economic or 
Industrial Questions — Project Started Expeditiously but Cautiously — 
Construction' an Enormous Task — The year 1904 One of Manifold and 
Par-Reaching Activities — Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers 
Appointed — Mr. Van Alstyne succeeds Mr. Bond as State Engineer — 
Standard Specifications Carefully Prepared — Radical Change in Classi- 
fication of Excavated Material' — Boat Design to Prove Canal Capacity 

— Test Contracts to Ascertain Probable Total Cost — Characteristics of 
Test Sections — First Bids Show Prospective Saving — Lump Sum. and 
Itemized Bids Asked at First Letting — Question Raised as to Concrete 
or Stone Masonry — Investigations and Report on Masonry Practice in 
Middle West and South — Studies for Making Changes in Canal Route: 
Tonawanda-Lockport Level: Lockport-Rochester Level: At Medina: 
Genesee River Crossing: At Rome: At Utica: Waterford Land Line 

— Study for Movable Dam^s — Study Extended to Europe — Bridge Type 
of Dam Adopted — Study for Changing Route near Savannah — A 
Longer Change and Enlargement of Cayuga and Seneca Canal Involved 

— Survey to Cayugd Lake Made — Influence of Cayuga and Seneca 
Agitation on Main Line Change — Route Changed by Legislative Amend- 
ment, Fox Ridge to Macedon — Another Amendment Allows Change of 
Lock Dimensions — Lock Dimensions Fixed — Provision for Future 
Channel Widening — Study for Securing Federal Aid, Troy to Water- 
ford — Numerous Findings of Study — Advisory Board to Continue 
During Construction — • Terminals Suggested — Certain Bridges Changed 
to Bascule Type. 

THROUGH many pages we have been considering the affairs 
in which the canal advocate and the legislator played the 
major parts. We come now to the time when the engineer 
had his day, and a rather long day it has been as time is measured, 
but to the historian who would make his recital something more than 
a record of technical achievements, however absorbing that may be to 
the engineer, this whole period seems somewhat lacking in outstand- 
ing events or in matters of any wide-spread popular interest. To 
make this chapter more interesting the topics discussed are confined 
chiefly to those which concern policies adopted or methods pursued. 
Chronologically we have now nearly reached the period of canal 
construction, but the present chapter, as has just been said, does not 
deal with that phase of the undertaking. It has seemed best to 


138 History of the Barge Canal 

segregate the events or subjects which have to do mainly with the 
actual work of construction and place them in chronological order in 
a chapter by themselves. To do this logically two other chapters 
besides the present must intervene, since construction on the Erie, 
Champlain and Oswego canals and on the Cayuga and Seneca canal 
after that branch was included and then on the terminals after they 
were added was all progressing at the same time, and a description of 
building operations on the parts added to the project would be out 
of place until after the accounts of their inception. 

The average engineer is not much in the public eye. He is 
engrossed in his own work and takes his delight chiefly in know- 
ing that he has solved' difficult problems and accomplished great 
deeds, not caring much what others, aside from his brother engineers, 
may know or think. The average engineering problem also, Uke the 
engineer, is not much in the public eye. Perhaps from its technical 
character this is necessarily so. Possibly too the engineer's attitude 
may have something to do with it. If he took the public more into 
his confidence, doubtless many persons would show greater interest 
in engineering attainments and deeper appreciation of their 

As an engineering project the Barge canal ranks at the top of the 
world's accomplishments. Its contemporaneous undertaking, the 
Panama canal, has overshadowed it in public esteem, especially in 
America, but we have no hesitancy in saying that, because of its more 
numerous and multifarious structures, its problems, much greater 
in number and more difficult, its greater length, and its construction 
through a highly developed and populous territory amid the restric- 
tions of public and private commercial interests, vested rights and 
legal entanglements — because of these characteristics and condi- 
tions, we have no hesitancy in saying that the engineering world in 
general ascribes to the Barge canal a higher technical rank than to 
the Panama canal. Foreign engineers surely recognize the standing 
of the Barge canal and many have been their pilgrimages to view it, 
some choosing to see its structures in preference to visiting the 
Isthmian waterway. 

Since the Barge canal has this engineering side as well as its com- 
mercial, economic and political sides, and since the engineering aspect 
occupies so conspicuous a position and constitutes so much of the 
canal history, we feel that, as we proceed with the account of canal 
construction, we must from time to time enter upon the discussion 
of a few strictly engineering features. We need not go deeply into 
technicalities — a volume of plans dealing exclusively with this phase 

Early Policies and Methods 1 39 

of the subject has recently been published — but to understand why 
various policies have been adopted we must know something of the 
engineering problems that 'have dictated them. 

Then, too, since the engineering problems were so closely con- 
nected with, or perhaps it would be better to say, were the results 
of various social, economic or industrial questions, we view them 
not merely as technical achievements but as explanations of certain 
phases of growth and development. Thus at the very beginning of 
Barge canal planning we shall see how the question of using concrete 
for its large structures was involved in the life of certain labor 
organizations and evidenced the passing of a long-established trade; 
how the adoption of movable dams affected the welfare of riverside 
communities and indicated an important advance in engineering 
knowledge; how a proposed betterment prevented interference with 
the business interests of a thriving village and eventually, together 
with other causes, added a new branch to the enlarged canal system ; 
how the widening of locks put the State in position better to cope 
with its rival, Canada ; how a study of canalizing the Hudson brought 
Federal aid ; how a new provision in the specifications tended toward 
the attainment of justice and the elimination of fraud; how devia- 
tions of route affected such localities as Rochester, Rome, Utica and 
other places ; and later we shall see how on the question of terminals 
hung the success of the whole canal and also much of the prosperity 
of the State. 

Perhaps it has been noticed that in the preceding pages we have 
been rather chary in using the term Barge canal. Up to the time 
when the people authorized a particular type of canal there were 
various schemes of improvement which were under consideration and 
in treating of that period it seemed wiser to use as distinctive terms 
as possible; the phrase i,ooo-ton canal appeared better to describe the 
main project. But hereafter we may use the term Barge canal and 
feel certain of not being misunderstood. As a matter of fact the 
name had come into popular use long before the time we have men- 
tioned. Since it has come now to be the accepted appellation of one 
particular canal system, we shall use a capital letter in spelling it. 
Moreover, we shall employ the term often according to a very com- 
mon use — as a generic title — to include all four of the separate 
branches of the system. 

We have seen something of the intense feeling that had been 
aroused on both sides in the contest for the Barge canal. But now 
that the people had ordered its building they expected that the work 

140 . History of the Barge Canal 

would be pushed to completion as soon as possible. It was needful, 
therefore, for those in authority to advance with speed but with 
extreme caution withal. The defeated opponents, as well as plenty 
of the friends also for that matter, were only too ready to condemn 
if ai^ht went wrong. Then too there was the memory of the nine- 
million experience fresh in the minds of everybody. The State 
Engineer appreciated the temper of the people and began his work 
within a very few days after the official count of the vote. The State 
Board of Canvassers does' not meet until a little before the middle of 
December, but by the fifteenth of that month the engineers had b^fun 
their operations and soon afterward plans for a carefully-organized 
engineering force were being carried out. 

The task imposed by the people, that of building the Barge canal, 
was gigantic; how vast an amount of labor it has involved can be 
realized only by those who have been through the whole of it. And 
the chief burden rested on the State Engineer, the major portion of 
all the labor and of the responsibility also devolving upon him. His 
was the duty of making the plans and then of seeing that the work 
of construction was done properly and in accordance with those 
plans ; his was the task of gathering all necessary information, draw- 
ing conclusions from the data in hand, deciding what to do, and then 
going ahead and doing it. To be sure there were the Canal Board 
and various officials who in a way shared that burden, but the work 
was mainly one of engineering and naturally most of the questions 
that arose fell to the lot of the State Engineer, and so it was that 
others in authority were guided by and placed chief dependence upon 
his opinion; moreover, if anything had gone amiss he would have 
had to bear the blame. He had able counselors, however, in the 
members of the Advisory Board and he was privileged to employ a 
niunber of expert assistants. 

If the average engineer is not greatly concerned with public 
acclaim, neither is he prone to make much ado about his difficulties, 
regarding them simply as part of his day's work. So with the 
project we are studying. Little was said to let people know that it 
rivaled the world's greatest deeds, that some untrodden fields were 
being entered, that the safety of cities and villages and the lives of 
their citizens depended on the proper planning of structures, that 
untold watchfulness was constantly necessary to guard the State's 
interests, or that a hundred and one troublesome problems were daily 
crying for solution. 

Earl^ Policies and Methods 141 

Although the engineers had begun their work by December 15, 
1903, it was not until the spring of 1905 that the first contracts were 
awarded and the work of construction actually commenced. But the 
year 1904 was not one of idleness, far from it. In spite of all the 
preliminary examinations, much additional information had to be 
acquired and new surveys of practically the whole line of the canal 
had to be made. An organization to endure for a decade or more and 
suited to handle an unusually large enterprise had to be perfected. 
Rules and instructions for conducting all the many kinds of work 
had to be formulated. And in all the contract plans made, not only 
in that year but also in the next year or two, the whole project had 
to be considered, since these first contracts were setting precedents 
and fixing standards. 

As one reviews the records of that first year of canal planning, 
the feature which stands out preeminent amid the manifold activities 
is the painstaking care and thoroughness with which the project was 
undertaken. With so enormous an enterprise in prospect no one 
could afford to make mistakes at the beginning. The nine-foot 
deepening was a lamentable example of work rushed into without 
due forethought or sufficient preparation and its warning was being 

On March 3, 1904, Governor Odell, under the authority given him 
by the Barge canal law, appointed " five expert civil engineers to act 
as an Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers." These were, 
Edward A. Bond, William A. Brackenridge, Dr. Elmer L. Corthell, 
Commander Alfred Brooks Fry and Col. Thomas W. Symons. We 
have already mentioned Mr. Bond and Col. Symons many times. 
Mr. Bond had then entered upon his sixth year as State Engineer. 
The other three were well-known engineers. Mr. Brackenridge had 
had large experience in water-power installation. Dr. Corthell 
enjoyed an international reputation and Commander Fry had been 
prominent in Government service. 

By reason of Mr. Bond's new position as chairman of the Advi- 
sory Board and his subsequent resignation as State Engineer the 
latter office became vacant. On May 10 the Governor appointed 
Henry A. Van Alstyne to fill out the unexpired term as State 
Engineer. Mr. Van Alstyne had been serving as Division Engineer 
on the Eastern Division for about three years and before that had 
been Assistant Engineer and Resident Engineer for several years 
and was well acquainted with State engineering work. Two days, 
later the new State Engineer appointed Henry C. Allen to be 

142 Hiitory of the Barge Canal 

Special Deputy State Engineer, the office created by the Barge canal 
law for supplying an engineer who should have direct charge of 
the whole Barge canal project. Mr. Van Alstyne served as State 
Engineer till January 'i, 1907, being elected in the fall of 1904 for 
a regular term of two years, and upon him and his Special Deputy, 
Mr. Allen, rested the responsibility of Barge canal operations until 
1907. For the five months of work up to Mr. Allen's appointment 
William B. Landretla, Resident Engineer of the Eastern Division, 
had been in charge under the State Engineer. 

The care attending the Barge canal work, especially the early 
stages of it, is seen particularly in the specifications. Any contract 
of course has its own individual specifications, but the large majority 
of items are common to many contracts and can be put in standard 
form, and it was these standard specifications that were then engag- 
ing the thoughts of the engineers. After their preparation by the 
State Engineer's corps these specifications were submitted to both 
the Advisory Board and the Canal Board and there subjected to 
careful revision. Upon points involving any legal questions the 
Attorney-General's suggestions were followed. No efforts were 
spared to make the specifications as clearly understandable and as 
perfect as possible. There were some departures from the prac- 
tices theretofore prevailing on State work, notably the classification 
of excavated material. This was a very important and somewhat 
radical change and one that resulted from certain experiences we 
noted in our earlier study of the subject. The new specifications 
required all excavation of whatever nature to be done under one 
classification and for one price. This arrangement probably did 
not result in any financial advantage to the State, but it did militate 
toward the minimizing of trouble, for it is through differences of 
opinion as to the proper classification of excavated materials, when 
a specification makes provision for classification, that the most 
serious controversies on contract work arise and the chief oppor- 
tunity for wrong-doing is presented. It was largely this difference 
in the specifications of the nine-million improvement that laid that 
whole project open to the charge of fraud. State Engineer Van 
Alstyne believed that by the elimination of every question relative to 
classification the greatest obstacle to a successful and clean adminis- 
tration of the work had been removed. To offset the element of 
uncertainty in this method of procedure careful borings were made 
upon the sites of contracts, a knowledge of the probable character of 
materials being thus obtained and the records of these tests and 

Earl^ Policies and Methods 143 

the samples taken in the borings being kept and exhibited to pros- 
pective bidders. 

In another matter the State Engineer showed the care with which 
he was proceeding. In all the preliminary studies it had been 
assumed that a barge of i,ooo tons capacity could be accommodated 
in the locks which it was planned to build, but no detailed plans for 
such a boat had actually been made. In order to determine defi- 
nitely the size and capacity of barges suitable for use in the prism 
and locks of the proposed new canal Mr. Van Alstyne obtained the 
services of Horace See, a naval architect of New York city, and 
requested him to design a barge and compute its carrying capacity. 
According to Mr. See's plans and accompanying report it appeared 
that a barge 150 feet long and 27 feet beam, when loaded to 10 
feet draft, had a cargo capacity of 1,020 tons and that a power 
barge of like dimensions could carry 892 tons. As the law fixed 
the lock dimensions at 328 feet between hollow quoins and 28 feet 
clear width, it can readily be seen that a 1,000-ton barge could 
navigate the new canal and also that two such barges could be 
passed at one lockage. 

One of the chief arguments directed against the proposed canal 
in the campaign which was just ended had been that the estimates 
were not reliable and that the project could not be completed within 
the sum appropriated. With this possibility in mind State Engineer 
Van Alstyne determined to ascertain with a fair degree of accuracy 
the probable cost of the whole improvement and for this purpose 
he selected eight sections of canal, well scattered over the whole 
state, each of which was typical of a particular class of work and 
all together embracing nearly all classes that would be encountered. 
Proposals from contractors for the work on these sections might 
reasonably be supposed to be a good index of the total cost. 

Briefly we may enumerate these eight sections and describe the 
kind of work required at each locality. First there was the improve- 
ment of the Champlain canal from Northumberland to Fort Ed- 
ward. Here there were a river channel and a land line prism to 
excavate and a dam, a lock and a guard-gate to build. The excava- 
tion was in soft rock and earth, both in the dry and under water, 
and besides the concrete structures there was timber work in docks 
and cribs. Two large locks at the Eastern end of the Erie canal 
constituted the second selection — locks of the highest lift ever 
undertaken in the world at that time, embodying a great volume of 
concrete and requiring a large amount of earth and rock excava- 
tion in preparation. The third section embraced five miles of canal 

144 History of the Barge Canal 

just east of Oneida lake, where a channel was to be dug through 
fine sand, suitable for a hydraulic dredge to handle, and several 
steel bridges and a breakwater into the lake were to be built. The 
fourth project contained material also suitable for a hydrauUc 
dredge, the silt, marl and sand in six miles of canal across the 
Montezuma marshes. The fifth section included four miles of 
canal near Rochester, where there were a million and a half yards 
of hard rock to be excavated. For the sixth proposition there was 
chosen the enlarging of six miles of existing canal near Medina, 
typical of a long stretch of canal in the western part of the state, 
where earth and rock must be excavated during the winter season 
and minor structures were to be erected. The seventh selection 
was the improvement of Tonawanda creek, which was to be widened 
and deepened through soft, wet soil. The eighth section was located 
in the city of Fulton on the Oswego canal. Here there were exist- 
ing river dams to be raised, two locks to be constructed, rock to be 
excavated imder water and structures to be built in the readjust- 
ment of private water-power interests. It may be said parentheti- 
cally that this eighth section, because of both natural obstacles and 
difficulties with the contractors, proved one of the most troublesome 
on llie whole canal. 

Before the year 1904 was gone contract plans had been prepared 
for the first five of the propositions we have just listed. These 
were contracts JJos. i to 6, inclusive, the first proposition having 
been divided into two contracts. On December 15, 16 and 17 
proposals were received for these six pieces of work. The sum 
of the lowest bids amounted to $4,242,620. The appropriation 
carried by the law authorizing the canal, it will be remembered, was 
based on the State Engineer's revised estimate of 1903. The 1903 
figures for the work included in these six contracts showed a total 
of $5,015,883. This was a prospective saving of $773,263, or 15.4 
per cent. Since nearly all classes of work were embraced in these 
contracts and since the tenders were received from a large number 
of contractors, hailing from many parts of the country, the result 
of this initial opening of bids was looked upon by those in authority 
as a most favorable indication that the whole canal could be built well 
within the appropriation. 

There was one fact connected with these bids which we should 
notice,- since it would have been a radical innovation if it had gone 
through as planned and moreover it accounts for the delay in award- 
ing these first contracts. By resolution the Canal Board had directed 
that each bidder be asked to state a lump sum for which he would 

Earl}) Policies and Methods 145 

do the entire work embl-aced within the contract, in addition to 
submitting a bid composed of unit prices for the various items of 
work. As introduced this resolution made it obhgatory on the 
bidder to submit both forms of proposal, but before passing the 
Board it was amended and merely requested both lump sum and 
itemized bids. When tliese first tenders were opened there ap- 
peared only two lump sum bids on each of three contracts and in 
all cases the lump sum bids were higher than the lowest of the 
itemized proposals. 

The legality of this procedure was seriously brought into question. 
The Barge canal law, it appeared, was silent in regard to receiving 
alternative proposals, but what was known as the general canal law 
(chapter 13 of the General Laws) forbade such bids, imposing 
upon anybody submitting more than one proposal on a single con- 
tract the penalty of rejecting all his bids. The task of awarding 
Barge canal contracts devolved by law upon the Superintendent of 
Public Works. The incumbent of the office at that time, Charles 
S. Boyd, felt it his duty to submit this question of legality to the 
Attorney-General, and also, since his term of office was about to 
end, he deemed it proper to leave the whole subject, including the 
award of contracts, to his successor. The outcome of this matter 
is told in the chapter on canal construction. 

Early in Barge canal operations the engineers were called upon 
to decide a question which at that time loomed rather large — 
whether concrete or stone masonry should be used in the new struc- 
tures. This necessity arose, not because the engineers themselves 
doubted the wisdom of using concrete, as had been planned in the 
preliminary estimates, but because various interested labor organ- 
izations protested against its use. Delegates from these associa- 
tions, representing stone-cutters, bricklayers and masons, appeared 
before both the Canal Board and the Advisory Board, praying for 
the substitution of stone masonry. Up to that time the State had 
not employed concrete to any great extent and indeed concrete had 
not yet taken its present place in general use. 

In the history of industrial development there has come many a 
time when some radical improvement has wiped out a whole trade 
and always the artisans of such handicraft have striven against the 
innovation. So it was now. Perhaps the members of these trades 
did not perceive the ultimate futility of their struggle, but they 
could see that such an enterprise as the Barge canal would 
abundantly lengthen the days of their occupation. It was the very 
largeness of the Barge canal project which precipitated the crisis at 

146 History of the Barge Canal 

this time. Canal authorities appreciated the gravity of the situation 
and took considerable pains to show the wisdom of their choice. 

With some show of reason the petitioners pointed to two con- 
spicuous failures of large concrete structures in the state and they 
contended also that climatic conditions in New York were inimical 
to the successful use of this material. Although New York State 
had not employed concrete much, its use on Federal works and in 
other parts of the country was becoming general practice. To 
ascertain the condition of these structures from personal inspection 
and also to advise with prominent engineers who were becoming 
expert in using concrete, William B. Landreth, who was tiien 
serving as Engineer-Secretary to the Advisory Board, made a trip 
through the Middle West and South in August, 1904. He went 
into Illinois, Wisconsin, Miimesota, Missouri, Kentucky, West Vir- 
ginia and Pennsylvania, examining large works of concrete and con- 
ferring with engineers. The conclusions he arrived at, which were 
concurred in by the Advisory Board, are worth noting, since they 
effectually decided the question for the Barge canal. 

" The conclusions reached by me," said Mr. Landreth in his 
written report, " after an examination of the various works and 
from conversations with the several engineers are as follows: 

" I. That concrete built of proper materials, well selected and 
carefully placed, has proved as strong and durable as cut-stone 

" 2. That its use in locks, dams, retaining walls, bridge piers 
and abutments, and in fact in all places where cut-stone masonry 
was formerly used, is becoming universal. 

" 3. That the cost of concrete -masonry is from one-fourth to 
one-third that of cut stone. 

" 4. That work can be built of concrete much more expeditiously 
than of cut stone, owing to the great difficulty in preparing the 
stone as rapidly as needed in the work." 

The examination extended as far north as Duluth, which is 275 
miles farther north than the Erie canal and experiences much more 
severe winters than New York state. The estimated cost of sub- 
stituting stone masonry for concrete in the Barge canal structures 
amounted to $16,100,432 and this fact also had its due weight in 
deciding the issue. 

The preliminary survey for the Barge canal had been conducted 
with as much care as was possible in the time available and on its 
results the general line of the canal and many details of construction 
had been definitely fixed for insertion in the law authorizing 4e 

Earls Policies and Methods 147 

work. Only within somewhat narrow limitations could the State 
Engineer or the Canal B.oard make any changes. By this means 
the framers of the law had sought to protect the State against the 
peradventure of undue expenditures or unscrupulous acts. But 
early in the studies for contract plans it appeared that by more 
extended investigations several possibilities of betterment might be 
found. We shall look at some of these studies. A few ,of them 
led to ultimate changes from the original plans, some without the 
necessity of amending the law and others by means of amend- 

Beginning at the western end of the Erie canal the first place 
for such improvement was the Tonawanda-Lockport level. Then 
proceeding east there were the Lockport-Rochester level, the gorge 
at Medina, the crossing of the Genesee river, the alignment near 
Savannah, the locations at Rome and Utica and the passage between 
the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. These studies all came in the 
first year's examinations. Going a little more' into detail we learn 
that the change on the Tonawanda-Lockport level was one of 
altered elevation, lowering the level about four feet by doing away 
with a dam, thereby eliminating a lock and the feeder from Black 
Rock. The question on the 63-mile Lockport-Rochester level was 
also one of elevation. By raising this level three feet at Rochester 
and a little more than five feet (providing for surface slope) at 
Lockport a large saving in expense could be made. The gorge at 
Medina furnished one of the most interesting engineering problems 
on the whole line of the canal. Although its solution was attacked 
early in the first year, the construction here formed one of the last 
large contracts to be let. Upwards of a dozen separate sets ,of plans 
and estimates were made before the final scheme was reached. The 
possibility of avoiding a very objectionable loop by carrying the 
canal over the 400-foot gorge, 100 feet above its bottom, presented 
a very fertile field for investigation. We shall speak of these plans 
later. A consideration of the Genesee river crossing suggested the 
substitution of a movable for a fixed dam. Here was another loca- 
tion prolific of extended stud)^ Because of its manifold problems 
and the difficulty of reaching agreements with the people of Roch- 
ester this was the last portion of the canal to be completed. We 
shall have occasion to speak often of the work in this vicinity. The 
possibility of a new alignment near Savannah became involved sub- 
sequently in the question of adding the Cayuga and Seneca cana! 
to the Barge canal system ; its discussion will be reserved to a later 
time. At Rome the canal problem was intricately complicated by 

148 Histori) of the Barge Canal 

the railroads and much time and labor were needed for its solu- 
tion, as we shall see later. Just prior to the adoption of the Barge 
canal project the city of Utica had begun a straightening of the 
Mohawk river north of the city in an attempt to regulate the stream. 
Now the people wanted the canal alignment changed by shifting it 
to the north, farther away from the city, so as to utilize the new 
channel. After careful consideration the State Engineer agreed to 
this idea and began his plans in accordance with it, but construction 
did not begin till five years later and by that time new elements had 
entered into the problem and had thrown the alignment still farther 
north, almost to the edge of the valley. Near the eastern end of 
the Erie canal there is an almost abrupt descent of considerable 
height into the Hudson river valley. The Mohawk makes this drop 
over the Cohoes falls. The old Erie canal made it by means of its 
" sixteens," that trial of the old canaler, sixteen locks in close 
proximity. The original Erie canal made a partial failure of its 
attempt to pass this declivity, the locks being so near together that 
frequent lockages drained the short levels between the locks and 
grounded the boats, and during those early days the lockages were 
frequent, for the traffic was large and the boats were small and they 
were plying on the canal in vast numbers. The territory in the 
vicinity of the falls had been frequently surveyed but not until the 
studies of 1904 did it occur to anybody to utilize a natural depres- 
sion that extended a good part of the way between the Hudson 
and the Mohawk. The new location at once commended itself and 
was speedily adopted. Along this stretch of about two miles and a 
half there has been constructed a section of canal which is abound- 
ing in features of especial interest to the engineer, the main attrac- 
tion being the greatest series of high lift locks in the world, five 
locks elevating boats through a height of 169 feet. 

Another study that was begun in 1904 resulted in substituting 
dams of the movable type in the Mohawk and eventually at two 
other localities for the timber, rock-filled dams of fixed type as 
originally planned. This was a question which involved more than 
engineering problems; it was one which at certain critical periods 
vitally affected the well-being of the communities along the 
Mohawk. Because of its remarkable endowment by Nature to be- 
come the principal thoroughfare between the Atlantic coast and the 
interior of the continent, the valley of the Mohawk has become a 
well-populated region and one of high commercial development. 
This was the avenue of travel and transport used by the Indian 
long before the coming of the European. This was the route along 


Earlj) Policies and Methods 149 

which the white man established his trading posts, that later grew 
into hamlets, and here he made his first attempt to open water 
communication with the great inland lakes. The original Erie 
canal turned these hamlets and lonely frontier cabins into thriving 
cities and flourishing villages and soon the railways came to in- 
crease the prosperity, so that today the Mohawk is lined with valu- 
able farm, village or city property, where is heard the hum of 
industry, and each bank of the river carries its great railroad. Any 
change which might increase the height or the frequency of floods 
in a territory like this was a menace to life and property and a 
grave hindrance to successful business, and such menace the fixed 
dam would have been. 

The fixed dam, the dam of all the past ages, as unchangeable as 
the centuries it has served, holds back its water to a minimum level 
at all times and functions well during the normal stages of a stream, 
but in periods of flood its presence may be decidedly objectionable. 
The movable dam, on the other hand, as its name inplies, may be 
removed from a stream as occasion requires. This type of dam 
appeared first about ninety years ago, has been devised in many 
forms, and either is built in sections which in the form of gates, 
wickets or smaller "needles," as they are termed, may severally be 
raised above the water-surface or be entirely removed, or is con- 
structed as a crest that by some means may be lowered into a recess 
below the bed of the stream. 

During 1904 the studies of the Mohawk river had led to the con- 
clusion that some form of movable dam must be adopted for the 
successful canalization of the stream, but what type to use did not 
then appear. By this means it would be possible to control floods 
and ice outflows to the extent at least of restoring natural conditions. 
Complete flood control, however, requires more than such regulating 
dam — reservoir storage chiefly. But these dams would help to keep 
the river from being the " ungovernable thing " of which Benjamin 
Fi-anklin wrote and tend to make it " quiet and manas^eable." 

A little later the study of movable dams was undertaken with more 
care, with the view to determine definitely what kind to use. A 
man who had had considerable experience in such work, David A. 
Watt, was secured to supervise the making of plans, and existing 
movable dams were inspected in both America and Europe. Mr. 
Watt visited in Europe canal structures on the lower and upper 
Seine, the Yonne, the Marne, the Oise, the Saone, the Rhone, the 
Po, the Danube, the Moldau, the Elbe, the Spree, the Main, the 

150 Hislory of the Barge Canal 

Ems, the Rhine and the Thames. Not only were movable dams 
inspected but whatever information was available that seemed appli- 
cable to the Barge canal Mr. Watt brought back with him. 

The style of dam adopted was known as the bridge type with Boule 
gates. This seemed best to satisfy the prime requisites — certainty 
and simplicity of operation. A good example of this kind had been 
found at Mirowicz, Bohemia, on the Moldau river, a dam completed 
in 1904. 

These dams, as they now appear in the Mohawk, seem to be bridges 
with abutments and piers. From the downstream side of the lower 
chord hang steel frames with heavy upright pieces 15 feet apart, 
upon which slide an upper and a lower tier of large rectangular steel 
plates, called gates. When serving as a dam the bottoms of the 
lower gates rest on a concrete, sill in the river bed, the tops of the 
upper gates forming the crest of the dam. When more water is to 
be passed one or more of the upper gates are partly or wholly raised. 
When all the water is to be passed, in extreme flood or during the 
winter, all the gates are raised and both gates and frames, which 
have a pin joint connection with the chord, are swung to a horizontal 
position under the bridge floor. 

At the time of making the 1900 preliminary survey two routes 
were considered in the vicinity of Savannah. This village stands on 
what is known as Crusoe island, which is not an island at all but is 
high, hard land, several miles in circumference, surrounded by low, 
marshy land. The route chosen crossed this, so-called island and 
was direct but it necessitated deep excavation and passed through 
the business portion of Savannah, cutting the village off from 
railroad communication except by a bridge upon the main street 
and doing considerable damage to property. The route circling the 
northerly end of the island was a mile and a quarter longer but 
was much cheaper. The original Barge canal law distinctly pre- 
scribed the course of the canal at this point. In his annual report 
for 1904, however. State Engineer Van Alstyne again raised the 
question, summing it up in this manner, " Is it worth $250,000 to 
save twenty-five minutes of the time required to make a trip from 
Buffalo to Albany?" The law was explicit in stipulating the 
reasons for which the State Engineer might make changes in canal 
alignment and it was conceded that this case did not come under the 
provision. But it is doubtful if a change would have been made 
here, had not a new question entered into the consideration — two 
new questions in fact, one embracing an alteration in alignment 

Earl^ Policies and Methods 1 5 1 

of much wider scope and the other involving nothing less than the 
addition of another canal, the Cayuga and Seneca, to the Barge 
system. In the final solution the line of the canal for many miles 
in this vicinity was pushed away to the south, far from Savannah 
or its environs. 

One of the laws of 1905 (chapter 700) directed the State Engi- 
neer to survey for a canal between the Barge canal and Cayuga 
lake. Back in 1900 the State Committee on Canals had recom- 
mended that the Cayuga and Seneca and the Black River canals be 
retained as navigable feeders but not enlarged and all through the 
agitation this suggestion had been followed and these two canals 
had been kept out of the discussion. But now, before construction 
had more than begun, came this first move toward adding another 
branch to the system, the Cayuga and Seneca canal. Later there 
were more or less serious attempts to make nine other additions, 
these being the abandoned Chemung canal, an extension of the 
Black River canal, the Glens Falls feeder, a branch from the Seneca 
river to Auburn, a section frpm Tonawanda to Buffalo and canals 
between Flushing bay and Jamaica bay, Newtown creek and Flush- 
ing bay, Gravesend bay and Jamaica bay, and Jamaica bay and 
Peconic bay. Of all the proposed additions to the original Barge 
canal system, however, only that of the Cayuga and Seneca canal 
has been effected and this was not accomplished until 1909. We 
are not at present directly concerned with this new branch but 
rather with the change made in the Erie canal in anticipation of 
its eventual inclusion. 

In reporting on the survey to Cayuga lake State Engineer Van 
Alstyne said that the question had arisen in this connection whether 
by changing the route of the main canal, bringing it closer to 
Cayuga lake, a location better in some respects than the one chosen 
might not result and at the same time provision be made for a 
cheaper connection with Cayuga and Seneca lakes. This proposed 
change in alignment was of considerable length, from Fox Ridge 
to Lyons, nearly twenty-five miles by the new line, some eight miles 
more than by the old line, but it lay largely in river channels, where 
the cost of both construction and maintenance would be lessened, 
where the wider channel would give increased safety and ease to 
navigation and where seepage and the consequent damage to ad- 
jacent property would be minimized and all the water-supply of the 
region would become available. These and other advantages were 
such as to cause the continuation of the study on this subject until 

152 History of the Barge Canal 

plans had been sufficiently developed along both lines to know of a 
certainty the good points and the cost of each. 

The movement to provide for a direct connection between the 
Barge canal and the Cayuga and Seneca canal had a marked effect 
in deciding the question of altering the alignment of the trunk 
line. The people of the Cayuga and Seneca valleys were getting 
back of the agitation and bringing strong arguments to reinforce 
their claims. Unless conditions were changed the only connection 
with the Cayuga and Seneca branch after the new canal should be 
completed would be by way of the existing Erie canal from Monte- 
zuma to Syracuse and thence down the existing Oswego canal to 
its junction with the Seneca river a little below the foot of Onon- 
daga lake. But the details of the survey of 1905 need not be given 
till the addition of the Cayuga and Seneca canal is discussed as a 
distinct project. This survey, it will be noticed, contemplated a 
spur only to Cayuga lake. The scheme for enlarging the whole 
extent of the Cayuga and Seneca canal did not develop until later. 

The problem of a new course for the Erie canal, however, ad- 
vanced steadily to a final solution. On January 15, 1906, the 
Advisory Board had held a public hearing on the question, attended 
by representatives from a full dozen commercial bodies and canal 
organizations. In this manner the sentiment of business and canal 
interests was obtained and in general it proved favorable to the 
change, but Savannah objected. Although the new arrangement 
would avoid injuring the town it would take the canal entirely away 
and quite naturally the people preferred the canal and its benefits 
to a few slight inconveniences and property damages, for which 
they would be financially compensated. 

By March 27, 1907, we find the State Engineer, Frederick Skene, 
presenting to the Canal Board estimates on the two routes and 
submitting to that body the question of making the change. In the 
extended study given to the subject it had seemed best to make 
certain changes in alignment still farther to the west and so these 
estimates cover the distance from Fox Ridge to Macedon, 34.74 
miles by the Savannah route and 42.82 miles by the " south," or 
" low level " line. The estimate along the course established by 
the law was $9,373,000, and by the new route, $7,836,000, a pros- 
pective saving of $1,537,000. The Canal Board ordered a com- 
mittee to draft a bill to authorize the change and a little later, 
during the current session, the Legislature amended the original 
law (chapter 710, Laws of 1907) so as to allow the new alignment 
to go into effect. 

Early Policies and Methods 153 

It was two years earlier, however, that the first radical change in 
the Barge canal law had been made, but in following topically 
various early studies made by the engineers we have deferred the 
consideration of this subject until now. This change was an 
amendment (chapter 740, Laws of 1905) which was so worded as 
to allow making the locks of larger size. The original law said, 
" The locks shall have the following governing dimensions : Lengfth 
between hollow quoins, three hundred and twenty-eight feet, clear 
width twenty-eight feet, minimum depth in lock chamber and on 
mitre sills eleven feet." The amendment inserted the word " mini- 
mum " before the words " length " and " width," thus making 
each of the three dimensions minimum dimensions, but not definitely 
specifying them. In this manner the Legislature had evaded the 
responsibility of fixing the new dimensions, passing it on rather to 
others, and those upon whom it fell were the members of the Canal 
Board. It might naturally be supposed that the State Engineer 
and the Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers were better 
qualified to pass upon this subject; at least they were the officials 
who had given it greatest thought and knew the most about it, but 
since the Canal Board must approve all plans before any con- 
struction work could be undertaken, the final decision of this 
question really devolved upon that body. It happened that in this 
instance there were marked differences of opinion. The State 
Engineer and the Advisory Board desired to increase both the 
width and the depth, but the majority of the Canal Board were 
opposed to the increase in depth and of course their opinion 

After the passage of this amendment the first official step toward 
reaching a decision was taken by the Canal Association of Greater 
New York. Within a few days the Canal Board and the State 
Engineer received letters transmitting resolutions adopted by this 
association urging the State officials to make the new locks at' least 
45 feet wide and 14 feet deep, saying that the exigencies of com- 
merce and traffic called for such enlargement and that by so doingf 
the canals would be placed on a par with the best equipped water- 
ways of the world. The Canal Board in turn requested the State 
Engineer to obtain the opinion of the Advisory Board on the 
subject. This he did and the reply of the Consulting Engineers is 
worth examining. It was in the form of a rather extended reso- 
lution, liie gist of which was that the locks on existing Canadian 
canals were 45 feet wide and 14 feet deep and a. prospective Cana- 
dian waterway would have locks at least as large; that a proposed 

154 History of the Barge Canal 

canal from Lake Erie to the Ohio river would be 15 feet deep 
and have locks 45 feet wide and proposed navigation on the IlUnois 
and Mississippi rivers would be 14 feet deep ; that European coun- 
tries, appreciative of the advantages of standard canal dimensions, 
were working toward that end; that the contemplated enlargement 
would decrease cost of transportation both by increasing tonnage 
of vessels and, because of greater depth, by reducing tractive force ; 
that it would enable the Barge canal better to compete with rival 
water and rail routes and might be to the advantage of such.barge 
owners as contemplated the use of their barges in coastwise traffic 
during the winter; that 76 per cent of the total Barge canal length 
lay in the open waters of river or lake and much of the remaining 
24 per cent was wide enough for two boats of 43 feet beam to 
pass and plans could be so drawn as to make easy the widening of 
the rest and also the deepening of the whole channel to 14 feet 
when traffic required; that the additional cost .of larger locks 
could be met without overrunning the money appropriated; that the 
contemplated water-supply was sufficient for locks of increased size, 
and therefore the Board was of the opinion that the locks shoidd 
be 45 feet clear width and have 14 feet depth of water over the 

It chanced that, when this measure became law, contracts had 
already been let for building three locks. The plans for these 
called for 28 feet width and 12 feet depth. As we have said. 
State Engineer Van Alstyne desired to increase these dimensions 
to 45 and 14 feet and in this stand he was backed by the Advisory 
Board, but to do this it was necessary to make alterations to the 
plans then under contract and also to have future plans containing 
these new dimensions approved by the Canal Board. The law 
provided that no alterations could be made without the consent and 
approival of the Superintendent of Public Works and the State 
Engineer. Mr. Van Alstyne knew that Superintendent Franchot 
would not consent to a depth greater than 12 feet and he knew too 
that the majority of the Canal Board also was opposed to increas- 
ing the depth. Therefore he did not attempt to bring the question 
to an issue, but he made very plain his own position in the matter, 
going on record in his annual report of 1905 and publishing a 
complete account of the transactions. 

The dimensions of the locks as fixed at that time are those upon 
which these structures have been built — 45 feet wide, with 12 
feet of wa:ter over the sills. Under the amendment the length also 
rfiight. "hive tefeU ittoieastfd; :blit there never developed aity reason 

Early Policies and Methods 155 

for doing this, except that as a matter of fact the locks are actually 
more than 328 feet long between the hollow quoins, ranging from 
about 338 to 343 feet. This dimension, however, is a mere detail 
of. design; the length in the lock chamber available for boats has 
not been increased beyond the original intention but to allow for 
the swing of the gates and other necessities a greater distance 
between the gates was found essential. 

At the beginning of Barge canal planning the State Engineer 
adopted a certain policy which the future may reveal as of great 
advantage to the State but which is scarcely known by any one 
except the engineers. Past experience had taught the wisdom of 
anticipating possible channel enlargements and so provision was 
made for increasing the minimum bottom width from 75 to no 
feet without unnecessarily having to undo what was then being done. 
The structures spanning the canal were built to fit this plan and 
excavated material was placed where it w.ould not have to be 
reharidled in case of a future widening. Also sufficient right of 
way was acquiired for such a contingency. 

A study made during the second year of Barge canal activities 
was the beginning of an effort which eventually saved for the State 
about a million dollars. It will be recalled that when State Engi- 
neer Bond revised his estimates in response to a request from the 
1903 Legislature he added an amount for work in the Hudson 
river from Troy to Waterford and in the Niagara river from Tona- 
wanda to Buffalo. This he did lest the Federal government should 
not take upon itself the improvement of these stretches, as had 
been assumed when the earlier estimate was made. This amount 
was $1,403,307. The respective portions according to 1901 prices 
were $737,683 for the Hudson and $538,051 for the Niagara. When 
surveys for making plans were begun, after the approval of the 
referendum, the engineers gave little attention to these sections, 
hoping that the United States would undertake the task. And ihe 
hope was well founded, for the river and harbor act of 1905 con- 
tained an item authorizing the expenditure of seven hundred thou- 
sand dollars for improving the harbor and channel at Black Rock 
arid for constructing a ship canal around the upper rapid of the 
Niagara at Black Rock. This aict seemed definitely to commit the 
Federal government to the improvement of the Niagara river from 
Buffalo to Tonawanda and such in fact has proved' the case. " Ex- 
cept for terminal construction at Buffalo the State "has not had to' 
do anything beyond the entrance into the Niagara river at Tona- 
wanda. This same act contained also an item which authorized "thci 

156 HisioT}) of ihe Barge Canal 

Chief of Engineers to make a survey and an estimate of cost for 
improving the Hudson river between Congress street bridge, Troy, 
and the eastern terminus of the Barge canal at Waterford. 

In addition to furnishing the United States engineers with all 
pertinent data in his possession and urgfing them to speed their 
investigations, in order that if possible the next river and harbor 
bill might include an appropriation to extend the 1 2-foot channel 
(which the Government had already excavated to Troy) as far 
up the Hudson as Waterford and possibly to Northumberland, State 
Engineer Van Alstyne caused to be made a study of the reasons 
why the Federal authorities should assume this task. The results 
of this study he published in his annual report for 1905 and also in 
pamphlet form. So conclusive are the arguments in this monograph 
and so almost amazing are some of the facts disclosed that we 
must examine it with considerable care and at some length. 

The policy of the United States toward purely natural waterways 
and even toward occasional artificial canals, this study points out, is 
well defined, both by the words of Government officials and also by 
precedent from the time of the first river and harbor bills to the 
present day, and that f>olicy emphatically declares the obligation 
of the central Government to establish and maintain the improved 
natural waterways where these improvements are obviously needed 
by large public interests and are sought by commercial movements 
of a magnitude sufficient to warrant the expenditure. The right to 
regulate commerce entails the responsibility of providing for that 
commerce. Thus New York, in respectful recognition of the 
Federal government's authority over its rivers and harbors, was 
seeking the expenditure of a moderate sum ufwn one of the greatest 
natural waterways of the country. 

Moreover the prof)osition for a canal entirely across New York 
state had long been a favorite theme with the National government 
and in its surveys three routes had been considered — one from Lake 
Erie to the Hudson, another from Lake Ontario to the Hudson and 
the third from the St. Lawrence through Lake Champlain and the 
upper Hudson to the head of navigation at Troy. In spite of the 
magnitude of the task New York State had now begun a great canal 
along not only one but all three of the routes projected fcy the United 
States government, and thus was simply executing the plans pro- 
posed by the Federal authorities and taking upon itself a work which, 
together with the Panama and a very few other canals, had been 
deemed, worthy of weighty and costly consideration by the National 

Early Policies and Methods 157 

If the canalization of the Hudson should be considered apart from 
the great system of State canals, the Government still had the 
strongest reason for extending its aid, since it had long before 
adopted the Hudson river up to the State dam at Troy as its own, 
having maintained and committed itself to the preservation of a 
navigable channel of 12 feet depth northward to that point. More- 
over that river presented the spectacle of being one of the mightiest 
watercourses to penetrate the interior of our country, bearing at that 
time a traffic of but little less than twenty million tons yearly and 
having exercised, perhaps, more of an influence upon our nation's 
history and welfare than any other. 

In addition the project afforded an opportunity for the Federal 
government to extend its aid to an inland section cut off of necessity 
from participation in many of the privileges of the coast and the 
appropriations therefor. In this section lay Vermont, the only st^te 
north of Mason and Dixon's line and east of the Mississippi river 
which has no frontage on either the Great Lakes or the ocean an J 
therefore is entirely dependent on an artificial outlet. As an inter- 
national waterway the general Government might therefore well 
afford to lend a helping hand, especially since Vermont had had a 
very meager allotment from the river and harbor expenditures of 
the nation. 

That the waterway up the Hudson river and across to Lake 
Champlain was by no means exclusively for the interest of the port 
or the state of New York the study clearly proved. The records if 
export trade of the five leading Atlantic ports of North America — 
New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Montreal — sounded 
an unmistakable note of warning that Montreal, as a rising com- 
petitor, was no mere illusion. Of these five great Atlantic ports, the 
Canadian metropolis had doubled its proportion of the total export 
trade in the preceding twenty-five years, its trade having grown 
steadily and rapidly all through that time and continued uninter- 
ruptedly throughout the decline experienced by the other four ports 
during the last half decade of the period. Evidently the United 
States had somewhere been negligent in its effort to hold the export 
trade from the interior, and apparently too the Canadian government 
was actively reaping the benefits of its liberal canal policy. 

The strongest argument, perhaps, for the central Government com- 
ing to the aid of New York lay in the comparison between the 
amount of foreign commerce passing through New York and the 
proportion of Federal expenditures which the State was receiving. 

1 58 History of the Barge Canal 

And this argument, by the way, applies and has been used with still 
greater force in attempts to persuade the Federal authorities to 
improve the New York port facilities for handling the vast amount 
of export and import commerce that passes every year through that 
harbor. In 1904 the combined export and import trade of New 
York state was practically equal to the sum total of all the combined 
export and import trade of the remaining 90 per cent (by, j)opula- 
tion) of the United States, and yet this State received as a return 
benefit with which to maintain its faciUties for handling its. immense 
contribution to the commerce of the country only Jj4 per cent of 
the total expenditures for river and harbor improvement. A review 
of the records for the preceding decade told the same story for each 
year, except that generally New York's share of commerce had 
been a little more than half that of the whole country. Moreover 
New York had never had more than about the same percentage of 
Federal aid. Of the total appropriations for river and harbor 
improvement from 1802 to 1904, inclusive, which amounted to a 
trifle less than a half biUion dollars, New York has received only 7^^ 
per cent, and the inclusion of projects along the New Jersey and 
Vermont boundaries did not materially alter the proportion. The 
monograph pointedly asks, " If, as a Federal statesman has said, 
' The General Government improves channels and harbors and 
imposes a charge upon commerce with a view to obtaining compensa- 
tion for the improvements,' is it right that a State furnishing, as did 
New York in 1904, sixty-four per cent of the imports of the Union, 
the item upon which this ' charge ' is based, should yet recover less 
than eight per cent of the resulting expenditure for ' improve- 
ment ' ? " 

Viewing the question from various angles the study showed that 
New York had commercial interests comparable with those of any 
foreign nation and that in the volume of her trafific per capita she 
was surpassed by only one people on the face of the earth. Also 
that the State, while it constituted an important part of the country, 
still possessed a far smaller proportion of the population, wealth and 
income of the United States than it furnished of the commerce and 
therefore had need of the assistance of the Federal government, to 
which it turns over aU the revenues of its foreign trade. The 
meagerness of the allotments to New York was emphasized by a 
table in the 1904 report of the Department of Commerce and Labor, 
which showed the quantity of freight handled on seven of the lead- 
ing waterways of the country and also the total United States appro- 

Earls Policies and Methods 1 59 

priations for each from 1802 to 1900. No Federal aid had been 
extended to the New York canals and yet they, even at that low tide 
of their career, were carrying a traffic second only to that of the 
Monongahela river, the leading waterway of the table, and 85 per 
cent of the tonnage on the Monongahela was simply coal floated 
downstream. Moreover the Hudson river, which was not included 
in this Federal report, was carrying twice as large a traffic as the 

New York's appeal called attention to the significant fact that in 
the great continuous chain of waterways which reach from the 
Atlantic coast through to the western extremity of Lake Superior 
that portion across New York state from the Hudson to Lake Erie 
was the only link for which the Federal government had not 
expended its millions, and yet that portion — even for the freight 
going all or in part by rail — was the key to all the rest of the route, 
the key, in the language of the Twelfth Census, to the " greatest 
internal waterway in the world, having a ton mileage equal to nearly 
40 per cent of that of the entire railroad system of the United 

The study revealed some striking facts in regard to State expendi- 
tures and Federal appropriations for rivers and harbors. Consider- 
ing national appropriations on the basis of distribution according to 
population it was discovered that during the preceding decade New 
York had received $1.69 per capita while the per capita expenditure 
for the whole country was $2.33. Applying the same test to the 
total appropriations from 1802 to 1904, the expenditures for New 
York and the United States, respectively, were $4.66 and $6.16 per 
capita of the population in 1900. Compared with other states it 
appeared that whereas New York had received aid to the extent of 
$3.92 per capita between 1802 and 1900 some of the western states, 
which had been settled during the last half of that period, had 
secured much larger amounts, as for instance Oregon and California, 
whose shares were $6.73 and $6.19, respectively. Although New 
York is the only state with both lake and ocean frontage to consume 
its appropriation, other states had fared much better. Wisconsin had 
had $5.32, Maine $7.28, Florida $8.76, Texas $5.07, Michigan 
$10.18, Rhode Island $8.24, Maryland $4-33, South Carolina $5.34 
and West Virginia $5.18. 

On the other hand New York, although she had always felt that 
the through routes of communication she had provided to the in- 
terior merited some share of national consideration, upon being 

160 History of die Barge Canal 

refused, had again and again bent herself heroically to the task, 
alone and unaided, and had already sf)ent on her canals a sum 
amounting to $29.30 per capita of her 1900 population and had 
begun a new enterprise which would increase the amount to $43.19 
per capita. The Government aid she was now requesting for both 
the Hudson and the Niagara projects was but 98 cents per capita of 
the state population, or nine cents per capita of the population of the 
whole country. In comparison it was seen that France had expended 
$20.45 P^"" capita in the improvement of rivers and harbors. All 
Europe in recent years and with remarkable unanimity had awakened 
to the demands and the benefits of water transportation for the 
interior, and in England, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia 
and Austria vast sums were being spent in extending and improving 
navigable waterways and connected harbors. New York's next door 
neighbor, Canada, had spent no less than $18.62 per capita of her 
present population and also then had under way projects which 
would double this siun, assuring a per capita expenditure of $37.24. 
That New York, almost single-handed, should be called upon to con- 
test these extensive outlays, made for the immediate and avowed 
purpose of diverting the interior traffic from United States to Cana- 
dian channels, was — whether just or unjust — the existing situation. 

It appeared, in short, that the 10 per cent of the population of 
the United States composing the state of New York was charged 
with the expense of accommodating 50 per cent of the foreign trade, 
the receipts for which it turned over to the general Goverimient, 
and that in return it was assisted by that Government to the extent 
of just about 7 per cent of the total moneys appropriated for harbor 
and river improvement for the utilization of the commerce of the 

We shall close our review of this study wth two quotations. 
" Thus it appears," reads the monograph, " that the United States 
Government, which from the beginning has expended upon New 
York only about $4.66 per capita of that State's population, has 
fallen as far short of a noble emulation of foreign and neighboring 
countries as has New York State herself — though stripped of the 
direct revenue of her commerce — exceeded these nations in the 
amounts of her appropriations, in her devotion to the principle of 
internal navigation, and thereby in her gratuitous service to the vast 
interior of the land." 

And again, " Will the Congress consider what would have been 
lost to the United States had not the New York canals been con- 

Earl^ Policies and Methods 161 

structed ? Will that distingfuished body reflect what assured national 
benefits would have been impugned had the State Government and 
the people lately yielded to the clamor of many who urged the aban- 
donment rather than the renovation of the system and the expendi- 
ture of another hundred million of dollars ? And will it refuse the 
well deserved assistance, because, forsooth, it knows the community 
has energetically made up its mind to prosecute this beneficent inter- 
national undertaking, even though it should have to stagger under 
the weight of other men's burdens ? " 

The general Government had already in effect pledged itself to the 
consummation of the Niagara project and this work was duly carried 
on to completion. Later, in deference to New York's appeal, it 
undertook also the Hudson river project hut not until several years 
had elapsed, and then various complications arose still further to 
delay the beginning of construction work. We shall therefore sus- 
pend consideration of this subject until the appropriate time is 

We have seen that by the Barge canal act there was created a body 
called the Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers. The members 
were appointed by the Governor and it was their duty, paraphrasing 
the law, to advise the State Engineer and the Superintendent of 
PubHc Works, to follow the progress of the work and from time to 
time report to the Governor, the State Engineer and the Superin- 
tendent of Public Works as these officials might require or as the 
Board itself might deem proper and advisable. Before canal plans 
had much more than begun an additional act of the Legislature 
(chapter 200, Laws of 1904) provided that the terms of office of 
these advisory engineers should continue during the period of canal 

An important feature of Barge canal construction, one that is 
now recognized as perhaps the most vital of all to the success of 
the venture but which was overlooked in the early stages of the 
project — -the providing of suitable terminals together with their 
accompanying freight-handling machinery and other facilities — was 
first given official cognizance during the period we have recently been 
considering. In its first report to the Governor, which covered the 
activities of 1904 and 1905, the Advisory Board of Consulting Engi- 
neers says that the question of terminals at Tonawanda or Buffalo 
and at New York city had been brought to the attention of the Board 
by various commercial organizations interested in the canal and had 


162 History of the Barge Canal 

been emphasized by statistics presented at a hearing before the Con- 
gressional Committee on Rivers and Harbors when Federal aid was 
being sought for the canal in the Niagara river at the rapids at 
Black Rock, between Buffalo and Tonawanda. But it was not until 
1909 that any effective action was taken to supply the canal with 
terminals and so this subject too will be deferred to a later time. 

A question of policy which came up after construction work had 
been progressing for several years was that of changing the type of 
bridges on certain portions of the canal. A commission was 
appointed in 1909 to study the subject to which we referred in the 
preceding paragraph, that of terminals, and it was a recommendation 
of this commission which led to this change in the bridges. In a 
preliminary report to the Legislature in 1910 the commission urged 
the amending of the Barge canal law so as to provide for bridges 
over the canalized Tonawanda creek which would leave an unob- 
structed channel for the passage of masted vessels, it being essential 
in the terminal development at the western end of the Barge canal 
to bring vessels having masts or funnels into the lower reach of 
that stream, where direct transfer might be made to canal barges. 
The original law required that all fixed and lift bridges should be at 
such a height as to give a clear passageway of not less than ISJ^ 
feet between the bridge and the v/ater at its highest ordinary 
navigable stage. The desired amendment, duly passed by the Legis- 
lature in 1910, added the Vvords, " When recommended by the state 
engineer and surveyor and approved by the canal board bascule or 
swing bridges may be constructed." 

But the provisions of this amendment could be invoked at any 
point on the canal and almost immediately Syracuse took advantage 
of this privilege and sought to have the new type installed on the 
section of channel lying between its harbor and Lake Ontario, a 
stretch comprising the whole of the Oswego canal, a portion of the 
Erie branch and the spur through Onondaga lake to the city. The 
object of course was to bring Great Lakes boats to the wharves at 
Syracuse, and bridges giving unlimited headroom were essential to 
its attainment. The project was largely agitated locally and had the 
backing of the commercial authorities of the city. A bill ordering 
this change was introduced in the Legislature in 1910, but it failed 
and what was really accomplished was the passage of a concurrent 
resolution directing the Terminal Commission to investigate the sub- 
ject and report to the Legislature of 1911. The Commission studied 
the Question carefully and reported that the cost of changing all the 

Earls Policies and Methods 1 63 

bridges except those between Onondaga lake and the proposed Syra- 
cuse harbor would cost about $520,000 and a capitalization of a half 
million more would be needed for maintenance and operation. 
Between Onondaga lake and the Syracuse harbor extensive railroad 
freight yards presented a complex problem, which could not be 
solved in conformity with the desired change for less than $750,000. 
The commission was of the opinion that the benefits to be derived by 
either Syracuse or the State were not commensurate with the 
expenditure of the million and three-quarters involved. Moreover 
some of the bridges had been or were being raised or altered to fit 
the i5j/2-foot requirement and others were already at a height to 
need no reconstruction. There were four bridges, however, which 
were still to be rebuilt and as the additional cost would not be large 
the commission recommended that they be constructed so as to be 
capable of being transformed later into swing or bascule bridges 
without the sacrifice of any of the original cost. 

A little later Syracuse petitioned the Canal Board to make the 
bridges over the Oswego canal of the movable type and the Board 
subsequently acceded to the request. In the minutes of the Canal 
Board proceedings for September 27, 191 1, may be found the record 
of the State Engineer's recommendation that all new bridges to be 
constructed over the Erie canal in the vicinity of Tonawanda or 
over the Oswego canal be either bascule bridges or of a type con- 
vertible into bascule bridges; also the Board's resolution approving 
this type of construction. As a result the four bridges on the 
Oswego branch have been made of the convertible type, as it has 
been called, and others not at the time contemplated are bascule or 
swing bridges. 

An interesting side-light in this report of the Terminal Commis- 
sion is the admonitory addendum urging that all further inroads 
upon the Barge canal funds be peremptorily stopped. It seemed 
probable that the whole project would be completed within the appro- 
priation and therefore it should not be permitted, said the Comtais- 
sion, that any obstacle should be thrown in the way of so desirable 
a consummation. The immediate occasion of this warning to the 
Legislature was the attempt of Syracuse to have the change of 
btidge type ordered by legislative action without special appropria- 
tion being made for the specific purpose. The canal appropriation 
had already been taxed with burdens it was not originally intended 
to bear and this was but one of several attempts to do the same thing 



Survey of 1905 to Cayuga Lake — What Existing Arrangement Would Mean 
— Report of 1905 Survey — Agitation Renewed in 1909 — Improvement 
Recommended by Superintendent Stevens — Paper Read at Waterways 
Meeting — Senate Asks for Estimate and Report — State Engineer Wil- 
liams Replies — Explanation of Names — Estimates of Cost — Possibil- 
ity of Separate Seneca Lake Branch — State Engineer Recommends Sur- 
vey — Legislature Passes Bill Authorizing Improvement — Governor 
Approves, Choosing between Two Referenda — Survey also Ordered — 
Authorizing Law Leaves Choice of Seneca Route Open — Survey Parties 
Soon in Field — Seneca Routes Investigated but Old Line Chosen — First 
Contracts Let in 1910 — Amendtnent of 1911 Adds Branch between Wat- 
kins and Montour Falls. 

WHEN the State Committee on Canals made its report to the 
Governor in 1900, recommending the improvement of the 
New York State canals, it gave as one of its conclusions 
that the Cayuga and Seneca and the Black River canals should be 
retained as navigable feeders but that they should not then be en- 
larged. This advice was followed throughout the period of agita- 
tion and eventual authorization and also untU construction had begun 
on the three main branches, but soon thereafter it appeared that the 
people of the finger-lakes region desired a share in whatever bene- 
fits the new canal might bestow and were trying to have their water- 
way included in the scheme of improvement. 

The first effective move in this direction was a bill in the 1905 
Legislature directing the State Engineer to make a survey, together 
with plans and estimates, for a canal from some point on the main 
waterway near Seneca river to Cayuga lake. W'e have seen a'.ready 
how this survey fitted in with a plan to change the alignment of 
the Erie canal in this vicinity; how this plan began with an attempt 
to avoid certain difficulties at Savannah by altering the line for a 
few miles and grew until it embraced a stretch of about forty- 
three miles, extending from Fox Ridge to Macedon. This change 
of ahgnment was made, it will be recalled, by amending the Barge 
canal law in 1907. A potent factor in eflfecting this change, it will 
also be remembered, was the consideration that it brought the 


Cayuga and Seneca Canal 1 65 

Erie channel five miles nearer the foot of Cayuga lake. At the 
time of making this first survey and during the two years or more 
of studies and deliberations on the contemplated change in the 
Erie route it v^^as realized that the two schemes were closely 
interdependent and that in deciding either question its effect upon 
the other must be regarded as of prime importance. 

The people living near the Cayuga and Seneca canal brought 
forward many forcible arguments in their appeals for enlarging 
this waterway and some of these will appear a little later. But 
for our understanding of the situation as it then stood — what 
would happen if no improvement should be made by the State, 
how, aside from being denied participation in 'a larger channel, 
all navigation of the canal would be subjected to greater incon- 
venience than in the past — we must remember that the Barge 
canal deviates in general from the old channel, in some places by 
a distance of several miles, and we must know in particular that 
in this vicinity the two lines were wide apart for many miles and 
under the arrangement of the original law the .only connection be- 
tween the Cayuga and Seneca canal and the new Barge channel 
would be by way of the existing Erie canal from Montezuma to 
Syracuse and thence down the existing Oswego canal to its en- 
trance into Seneca river, in all a distance of about 39 miles. We 
must know also, in order to perceive one important reason for both 
changing the Erie route and making direct connection with the 
Cayuga and Seneca branch, that it would have been necessary 
otherwise to keep open these portions of the existing Erie and 
Oswego canals simply for supplying an outlet for the Cayuga and 
Seneca canal and that except for this need they might be abandoned 
after the Barge canal improvement should be completed. 

The report of the survey to Cayuga lake, which is dated March 
26, igo6, showed three estimates, $2,677,000, $1,918,000 and $1,- 
647,000, which were for channels having 12, 9 and 7 feet depth of 
water, respectively. The estimate for the 12-foot channel was an 
estimate, of course, for a waterway of Barge canal dimensions. 
One lock would be required and this was estimated along Barge 
canal lines, having the same length and width but a depth corre- 
sponding with the three respective depths of channel. It had been 
found that before deep water should be reached a channel of con- 
siderable length would have to be excavated into the north end of 
Cayuga lake. The distances were 7 miles for the 12-foot, 3^ miles 
for the 9-foot and 2j^ miles for the 7-foot depth. 

166 History of the Barge Canal 

At the time of making this survey the change of route in the new 
Erie branch was still under deliberation and so the estimate con- 
templated a line from a junction about a half mile west of Fox 
Ridge to deep water in Cayuga lake. No specification as to size of 
the proposed charmel appeared in the authorizing act, this question 
being left to the discretion of the State Engineer. Air. Van Al- 
styne held the position of State Engineer at the time and his 
decision, as we have seen, was the submission of estimates for 
three sizes, a plan which permitted a study of comparative costs. 
A depth of twelve feet was Barge canal size, one of nine feet was 
what the existing Erie was supposed to be, while seven feet would 
be no increase over the existing Cayuga and Seneca depth, but a 
new location was chosen, the same for all three depths, and this 
followed in general the river channel, while the old canal ran in a 
land line close to the river but slightly above it. The law ordered 
a survey only to Cayuga lake and that was as far as it was carried, 
but the idea of extending eventually throughout the whole length 
of the canal whatever improvement should be made was evidently 
in the minds of those concerned. In fact the report .of the State 
Engineer treated somewhat of the benefits of having direct water 
communication with the heads of Cayuga and Seneca lakes, both 
close to the coal fields of Pennsylvania, and also of providing access 
by water to salt-producing works on each lake and to some buUd- 
ing stone quarries and a cement plant on Cayuga lake. 

It was not till 1909 that agitation for an improved Cayuga and 
Seneca canal was vigorous enough again to catch the public eye. 
Doubtless the friends of the project had been working quietly. 
Such matters seem usually to move rather slowly and three years 
had now elapsed since State Engineer Van Alstyne had presented 
his report of the first survey to the Legislature, but during the 
session of 1909 events moved swiftly and before it closed the 
success of the issue had been accomplished so far as it could be 
till the people passed upon it at the ensuing general election. Dur- 
ing the period of apparent quiescence, however, the route of the 
main canal had been changed by legislative amendment and now 
its nearest point was only four miles from the foot of Cayuga lake. 

In his report to the Legislature in January, 1909, Superintendent 
of Public Works Stevens made a strong plea for including this 
canal in the number of those to be improved; he enumerated some 
of the prospective benefits and called attention to the possibility of 
adding the two lakes with their eighty miles of natural navigation 

Cayuga and Seneca Canal 167 

amidst important industries to the Barge canal system by building 
only about twenty-four miles of waterway. While he had not the 
data upon which to base an accurate estimate he thought the por- 
tion between the new Erie junction and Cayuga lake could be 
built for $1,750,000, and that from Cayuga lake to Seneca lake for 

At about this time there occurred a conference of waterway 
advocates in Brooklyn, assembled for the purpose of organizing 
what became the New York State Waterways Association, a body 
which from its founding has been the channel through which con- 
certed public action has endeavored to advance the interests of the 
canals, a body, moreover, made up of representatives from many 
of the same commercial organizations which have backed the canals 
during the thirty-five years that the later series of improvements 
has been going on. The Cayuga and Seneca project was placed 
before this conference in a paper read by Jared T. Newman, who 
had just served Ithaca as mayor. One or two of Mr. Newman's 
statements will suggest why the arguments for this improvement 
prevailed. There was a single cement plant on Cayuga lake, said 
he, which had a capacity .of one thousand barrels a day and bade 
fair to produce that amount in 1909. But the cement industry in 
that vicinity was still in its infancy. Gypsum also was produced in 
large quantities on Cayuga lalce. But more important than these 
was the production of salt. Already Tompkins county, on Cayuga 
lake, and Schuyler county, on Seneca lake, in the order named, 
stood next to Livingston and Wyoming in the quantity of salt 
produced in the state, Onondaga, the original large salt producer, 
coming after Schuyler. "As a matter of fact," to quote Mr. New- 
man's language, " layers of solid salt 248 feet in aggregate thickness 
underlie Ithaca and Watkins — a quantity sufficient to supply the 
world, and more available to tide-water than any other large deposit. 
The estimated output of salt and cement for the year 1909 from 
the plants along the two lakes is 500,000 tons, while the total ton- 
nage by boat last year was only about 81,000 tons." 

The immediate result of the recommendations made by the 
Superintendent of Public Works was a Senate resolution, dated 
February 4, calling on the Superintendent and the State Engineer 
for an estimate of probable cost and such other information as 
would enable the Legislature to make an inteUigent study of the 
whole question and also come to a decision as to what step, if any, 
it should take in inaugurating the suggested improvement. 

168 History of the Barge Canal 

The State Engineer, Frank M. Williams, replied to this request. 
Such data as were available were filed in his office and chief 
reliance had to be placed on this information, since a speedy answer 
was required and no time was allowed for adequate surveys, ilr. 
Williams' report was dated ilarch 27 and in it we find that he 
divided the project into two parts, one the section from the new 
Erie canal to Cayuga lake and the other from Cayuga lake to 
Seneca lake. For the former section the survey made in 1905 
furnished sufficient data, but for the latter section little was at 
hand upon which to base an estimate for constructing a channel of 
Barge canal dimensions. But from the best information obtainable, 
from comparison with somewhat similar work already under con- 
tract on the Barge canal improvement and from a few such hur- 
ried surveys, soundings for rock and personal examinations as 
could be made an estimate was prepared. As the State Engineer 
said, however, this could at best be regarded only as approximate. 

Parenthetically it may be said that the division of the Cayuga 
and Seneca canal into two parts was a feature in the history of 
the waterway which did not appear until just about this time but 
which presently led to a confounding of names. All through its 
existence up to this time it had been known as the Cayuga and 
Seneca canal but the act of 1909 called it the Cayuga and Seneca 
canals. This was not an inadvertent error ; the law described 
separately and with exactitude the routes which it designated the 
Cayuga canal and the Seneca canal. The reason for this change 
and the circumstances leading to it are easy to discern. The en- 
tering wedge in the attempt to connect the Cayuga and Seneca branch 
with the Barge improvement was the survey of 1905 and this 
included only the portion to Cayuga lake. The Superintendent of 
Public Works in his rough estimate of cost naturally separated the 
part based on an actual survey from that which was more or less 
of a guess. The State Engineer v,-as compelled to make a like 
division for a somewhat similar reason, but also, as will appear 
presently, he thought that he might be able to find an advantageous 
connection between Seneca lake and the new Erie canal by going 
directly north and not diverging easterly to Cayuga lake, as ran 
the course of the existing canal. But investigation showed the old 
route to be better and the Barge canal improvement has followed a 
route not separated widely from the old canal. Indeed the differ- 
ence in alignment is less than on much of the Erie branch, since 
portions of the old Cayu^ja and Seneca were already river canali- 
zations. There seems to be no sufficient reason, therefore, for 

Cayuga and Seneca Canal 1 69 

changing from the old name. It may hark back to a style not 
common nowadays in assigning names to new enterprises, but that 
is .of small account. This is the same waterway that was built in 
1825-28, any changes since that time having been essentially nothing 
but enlargements, and it is best that its identity should be preserved. 
To this end we are careful to use the original name in the present 
volume. In general the same rule has been followed in all publi- 
cations of the State Engineer's department. Moreover, although 
the phrasing seems w'ell advised for various recent projects, we 
steadfastly abstain in this instance from that hyphenated modernism 
employed by some persons, the Cayuga-Seneca canal. 

State Engineer Williams' estimate, in his report to the Legisla- 
ture, was based on a channel of Barge canal dimensions. Further- 
more the same essential features of construction were adopted. It 
would be a serious error, he said, to sacrifice on this canal, for the 
sake of economy, the rules of good curvature and alignment and the 
standards of stability and completeness established on the main 
waterway. At one particular locality, however, a saving could be 
effected. The existing canal circled the north end of Seneca lake 
in a land line, continuing for about two and a half miles beyond the 
point where access to the lake was first possible. Because of new 
methods of propulsion inherent to Barge canal navigation, direct 
entrance into the lake would entail no hardship on boatmen and so 
this shorter course was planned. The estimated cost for the section 
from the Erie branch to deep water in Cayuga lake, a distance of 
10.8 miles, was $1,565,543. The extension from a point on this 
line to deep water in Seneca lake was 13.7 miles long and was 
estimated to cost $6,528,233, making the total for the whole canal 

The State Engineer added that he had some reason for believing 
that there might be found a route from Seneca lake to a junction 
with the main Barge canal which could be built at less expense than 
would be involved in canalizing the Seneca river along the existing 
canal. He recommended the appropriation of $40,000 for making 
surveys from which to prepare detailed plans and accurate esti- 
mates and also contract drawings for such portions of the work as 
should be undertaken first. This preliminary work would occupy 
about a year and its accomplishment, in anticipation of a speedy 
authorization of the improvement, would hasten the completion of 
the canal of course by that much time. 

A bill to enlarge the Cayuga and Seneca branch to Barge canal 
dimensions and carrying an appropriation of $7,000,000 was passed 

170 History of the Barge Canal 

by the Legislature of 1909. It was one of the thirty-day bills left 
in the hands of the Governor after adjournment. In the natural 
course of events it was necessary for a bill .of this character to run 
the gauntlet first of the Governor's endorsement and then of the 
people's approval at the ensuing general election, but this particular 
bill was subjected to a more severe test. The Legislature had 
complaisantly yielded to other strong influence and had left 
with the Governor also a bill for the issue of bonds to the amount 
of $2,000,000 for pensioning Civil war veterans, despite the con- 
stitutional restriction that only one measure carrying a bond issue 
might be submitted at any one election. Thus the Governor not 
only was compelled to determine the advisability of the propositions 
but was placed in the dilemma of choosing between them, and both 
were strongly endorsed by large and influential organizations. ^lore- 
over the advocates of each bill were necessarily forced to seem to 
be the opponents of the other. 

To help him decide the difficult question Governor Hughes gave 
a hearing at which both measures might he argued. The veterans 
were well represented by delegations and spokesmen and their 
strong plea was that the canal scheme could wait while the rapid 
rate of depletion in their ranlcs called for immediate action. For 
the canal there spoke George Clinton of Buffalo, Jared T. Xewman 
of Ithaca, and Henry B. Hebert of New York. Canal delegations 
were present and others were to have spoken but time forbade. 
The argument which seemed to hold the Governor's attention closest 
and make the strongest impression on him was that advanced by 
Mr. Qinton, who held that the pension bill was unconstitutional and 
even if approved by the people would not become operative and 
afford the desired relief. 

The Governor signed the canal bill and it became chapter 391 of 
the laws of 1909. We need not examine its provisions in detail. 
In general the act closely resembled the law which authorized the 
improvement of the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals and in 
many features it was identical with the earUer law. The supply 
bill of 1909 contained an item of $20,000 for making a survey of 
the Ca>uga and Seneca project and this too received the Governor's 

But there is one clause in the new law which we must notice. As 
we have seen ahead}', the act separated the canal into two parts. 
One extended from near the confluence of Seneca and Clyde rivers 
to deep water in Cayuga lake and was called the Cayuga canal ; the 
other began at a junction with the Cayuga route and went to 

Cayuga and Seneca Canal 1 7 1 

Seneca lake, being denominated the Seneca canal. After describ- 
ing these two courses, the law provided for an alternative route, 
which would stretch northerly from Seneca lake and join the Erie 
canal in the vicinity of Lyons. This latter route might supersede 
the easterly line to Cayuga lake along the existing canal. The act 
placed on the State Engineer the duty of making the necessary 
surveys and estimates to show comparisons of cost and desirability, 
and laid on the Canal Board the responsibility of making the final 
choice between routes. 

With a fund available for surveys without waiting for the whole 
appropriation to be approved by the electorate, parties under the 
immediate direction of Deputy State Engineer H. W. De Graff 
were in the field by the first of June and before the end of the 
calendar year the surveying and mapping had been almost com- 
pleted and computations were being pushed. Information was at 
hand for beginning contract plans as soon as the choice of routes 
should be made. The referendum was carried by a majority of 
69,097. Four constitutional amendments voted on at the same time 
were also approved and of the five measures the canal project stood 
second both in the number of votes cast for and against it and in 
the size of its majority. 

The possibility of finding better alignment than that of the exist- 
ing canal led to very thorough investigations, especially along the 
prospective line running north from Seneca lake, some twelve 
schemes having been studied. These included routes by way of 
Canandaigua outlet and also through a chain of small lakes and 
streams two or three miles to the east of this outlet, with termini 
at either Geneva or Seneca lake outlet on the south and at Lyons 
or Creagers bridge on the north, with both constantly descending 
levels from the lake to the Erie canal and also summit levels and a 
consequent water-supply midway. On the line east from Seneca 
lake a possible course other than along the existing canal was 
examined. This route followed Seneca outlet nearly to Waterloo 
but diverged thence to the south, avoiding the built-up portions of 
Waterloo and Seneca Falls and reaching Cayuga lake several miles 
above its foot, at a point directly east of Seneca Falls. The route 
selected, however, followed substantially the line of the existing 
canal, which was also largely the channel of the natural outlet of 
Seneca lake. 

After the route had been determined the preparation of contract 
plans advanced steadily. The close of 1910 saw contracts in force 
for constructing a lock and controlling works at the foot of Cayuga 

1 72 History) of the Barge Canal 

lake and for excavating 17 miles of channel. This included all 
the channel except about seven miles, this portion being chiefly 
the stretch between Waterloo and Seneca Falls. 

By an amendment in 191 1 (chapter 453) the route was extended 
from Watkins, at the head of Seneca lake, to Ayres street in the 
village of Montour Falls. This addition constituted the lake level 
of the old Chemung canal, a stretch of 2% miles, extending from 
the lake to within a few feet of the remains of the first of the 
old locks. The Chemung canal was abandoned at the close of navi- 
gation in 1878. By an act of 1887 the lake level was again made a 
part of the State canal system and within a year or two thereafter 
had been repaired and reopened to navigation. But it did not 
remain open long, since a near-by creek, which is subject to vio- 
lent floods, broke through a bank and filled the channel with bars 
for a considerable distance. It was this reopened portion of the 
Chemrmg canal which the amendment of 191 1 made a part of the 
Cayuga and Seneca branch of the Barge canal. Although the 
amendment thus lengthened the canal, it provided no additional 
fimds for the increased construction. 



Tardiness of Terminal Movement Strange — Earlier Feeble Measures — 
First Decisive Step, 1909 — Broad Review of Terminal Question — Prop- 
erly Controlled Terminals Essential to Water Transportation — Terminal 
Situations in Europe and America — Relation Terminal Charge Bears to 
Carrying Charge — Supreme Importance of Efficient Handling Machin- 
ery — Task Set Barge Canal Terminal Commission — Its Personnel — 
Its Work — Three Chief Terminal Investigations Almost Cotemporary — 
Time Ripe for Terminal Improvement — Essentials of Terminals — Re- 
port of Terminal Commission: Preponderance of Local Traffic: Large 
Volume of Available Home Products Shown: Decline in Through 
Traffic Due to Terminal Lack: Refusal of Railroads to Cooperate a 
Large Contributing Cause: Greatest Terminal Need in New York City: 
Preeminence of the Port of New York: Almost Utter Lack of Canal 
Terminals in New York: Certain Observations in Europe: European 
Ports Visited: Estimated Cost of Barge Canal Terminals: Commis- 
sion's Recommendations — Terminals Authorized — Localities Included — 
Procedure in Construction — ■ List of Terminals Built — Question of Hud- 
son River Terminals Arises and Some Progress Made — Appreciation of 
Need of Elevators Growing — To the Fore in 1920 — Elevators at 
Gowanus Bay and Oswego Authorized — Arguments Advanced for Ele- 
vators by State Officials — Details of the Two Elevators. 

AT THE present time it seems almost incredible that it could 
/-A have been eight years after the Barge canal was authorized 
before State-controlled terminals were added to the project. 
Indeed to those who have studied waterway problems and have 
followed canal terminal construction in New York state and who 
for years now have been thoroughly imbued with the idea that 
public terminals are an indispensable part of successful waterways, 
and also to a few others who have taken the pains to inform 
themselves on transportation topics, New York's long neglect of 
its canals in this respect has become a thing of surpassing wonder- 
ment. And yet it is not so many years since people began to realize 
that channels alone do not give transportation, or, as one writer 
puts it tersely and vividly, that waterways without terminals are 
as useless as electric wires without contacts. We can see now, 
however, that the State's neglect to furnish terminals was having 
its deleterious effect on traffic years before the Barge canal was 
projected. Still, New York, although it seemed slow to begin, did 
in reality take the lead among the states in the matter of building 


1 74 History/ of the Barge Canal 

and owning its waterway terminals. It is a fact also that at least 
a few of the leading advocates appreciated the need of terminals 
when the building of the Barge canal was being agitated, but they 
were biding their time, awaiting the suitable moment for launching 
the project. 

But there have been those who long have known the importance 
of .owning and controlling terminal facilities along our waterways. 
They are the people who have obtained possession of most of the 
water-front in seaport, lake harbor and river cities, and more 
often than not it has been the railroad interests that have thus 
obtained possession .of these strategic sites. 

Owning the terminals, these private and corporate interests have 
controlled the traffic and fixed the rates and generally their control 
has not been favorable to the waterways. The people at large, 
therefore, have not had a fair chance to know by experience the 
possibilities of economy in water-borne transportation, and the 
wonder is that they have been so long in awakening to the signifi- 
cance of their sitviation and in finding the effective cure for their 
commercial ills. 

It was in 1909 that the State took its first decisive step towards 
providing terminals for its canals, but prior to that date it had from 
time to time attempted in a feeble way to prevent terminal extor-- 
tions. In 1881 a Legislative committee had conducted an investi- 
gation on the subject of excessive charges and other abuses to 
which boatmen were subjected. Again, at the beginning of the 
nine-foot canal enlargement. State officials had urged the curbing 
of high terminal charges, in order that the full benefit of the 
improvement then in progress might be secured, the former season 
having seen many owners tying up their boats in preference to 
operating with such meager returns as prevailed. We have al- 
ready learned what the New York Commerce Commission recom- 
mended in its report in 1900 — that terminals be provided at Buf- 
falo and New York and that terminal charges be restricted by law. 
In its first report to the Governor, in 1906, the Advisory Board of 
Consulting Engineers had mentioned in a somewhat incidental way 
the need of terminals at New York and at Tonawanda or Buffalo. 

It will be observed, however, that up to this time no broad ter- 
minal policy for the whole state had even been suggested in any 
official utterance. The idea appeared a year or two later and prob- 
ably it was of gradual growth. After the State Engineer and the 
Superintendent of Public Works had both recommended the meas- 
ure twice in their annual reports and after canal advocates had 
done considerable work by way of agitation, the Legislature in 1909 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 1 75 

(by chapter 438) created a commission, generally known as the 
Barge Canal Terminal Commission, to study the whole question of 
providing terminal facilities for the canals of the state. 

Before we follow this Commission in its trips of inspection 
throughout the state or later in a visit to European ports, for the 
Legislature of 1910 authorized an examination of foreign harbors, 
we shall consider the general topic of waterway terminals. The 
work of this Commission was most admirable and the subject of its 
inquiry most momentous. In servide to the State the Commission 
stands only second in importance to, if it does not equal, the State 
Committee on Canals, the body which was called upon to formu- 
late for the State a canal policy. In like manner the Barge canal 
terminals are second only in importance to the canal itself. And 
so, to gain a full appreciation of the part terminals and terminal 
facilities play in both the broad scheme of water transportation and 
the narrower sphere of canals and navigable lakes and rivers, and 
to get a wide outlook over existing conditions and needs — what 
has been done in a few places and what has not been done in a 
vast number .of other places — and thus to be able better to under- 
stand the supreme importance of the terminal problem in New 
York state, we need to pause and study briefly this general subject 
of waterway terminals. ' 

In this study probably we can do no better than to read what a 
national commission had to say concerning the urgent need in the 
United States for adequate waterway terminals, and what is more 
important, the proper control of such terminals. This commission 
spoke with authority. It had had ample opportunity to learn the 
situation both at home and abroad. This was the United States 
National Waterways Commission, a body composed of twelve mem- 
bers of Congress, seven senators and five representatives. Senator 
Theodore E. Burton of Ohio being chairman. This commission 
was a contemporary of the Barge Canal Terminal Commission, 
having been created by act of Congress only about two months 
earlier but making its final report about a year later than the New 
York commission. We quote at some length from this final report.* 
The section on the control of water terminals reads as follows : 

" Undoubtedly the most essential requirement for the preserva- 
tion and advancement of water transportation is the establishment of 
adequate terminals properly controlled. Under present conditions 
the advantage of cheaper transportation which the waterways afford 
is largely nullified by the lack of such terminals. 

* Senate Document No. 469, 62d Congress, 2d session, pp. 20 and 21. 

176 HisloT^ of the Barge Canal 

"According to the report of the Commissioner of Corporations 
on water terminals, private interests control nearly all the available 
water front in this country, not only at the various seaports but 
also along the Great Lakes and the principal rivers. Only two 
ports in the United States, New Orleans and San Francisco, have 
established a public control of terminals at all comparable with the 
municipal supervision existing at most European ports. 

"The above-mentioned repwrt on water terminals also shows 
that a large proportion of the most available water frontage is 
owned or controlled by railway corporations. Through this owner- 
ship or control they practically dominate the terminal situation at 
most of our ports, and they have generally exercised their control 
in a manner adverse to water traffic. In many cases they hold 
large tracts of undeveloped frontage which they refuse to sell or 
lease, and which are needed for the construction of public docks. 
This railway control of terminals is one of the most serious ob- 
stacles to the development of water transportation, for the control 
of the terminal means practically the control of the route. An 
independent boat line has small chance of success where it is 
denied the use of docks and terminal facilities or is required to pay 
unreasonable charges for their use. The high terminal charges at 
many of our ports make it impossible for small boat Unes to enter 
at all. 

" The commission beheves that the proper solution of this ter- 
minal question is most vital to the future of water transportation. 
It is, however, more a local or State than a Federal problem. As 
pointed out in the preliminary report of the commission, there 
should be a proper division between the functions of the Federal 
Government and local communities in the improvement of water- 
ways. The Federal Government should improve channels, while 
the municipalities should cooperate to the extent of providing ade- 
quate docks and terminals. It is absolutely essential for the growth 
of water transportation that every port, whether located on the 
seacoast or on some inland waterway, should have adequate public 
terminals, at which all boat lines can find accommodations at rea- 
sonable rates. Inasmuch as the indifference of communities to their 
responsibilities in this matter largely nullifies the benefits of expend- 
itures by the Federal Government for channel improvements, the 
commission emphasizes the recommendation made in its prelimi- 
nary report that further improvements in rivers and harbors be not 
made unless sufficient assurance is given that proper wharves, ter- 
minals, and other necessary adjuncts to navigation shall be fur- 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 177 

nished by municipal or private enterprise, and that the charges for 
their use shall be reasonable. It can not be too strongly urged that 
in many cases it is not the condition ,of channels so much as it is 
the lack of terminals that is retarding the development of water 

" Where water frontage necessary for the establishment of pub- 
lic terminals is held undeveloped by railway or other private inter- 
ests, a special act .of the legislature should be passed, empowering 
State or municipal officials to condemn such property for public 
use. This plan has already been followed in a few cases and should 
be more widely adopted. The proposal has sometimes been made 
that the Federal Government should condemn private property and 
estabhsh public terminals along the rivers and in the harbors which 
it is improving in order that the benefits of such expenditures may 
not be nullified. The commission, however, would not recommend 
the adoption .of such a policy unless it shall be found after a fair 
trial that the States and localities can not adequately solve the 

We may gain a good understanding of what the terminal situation 
in Europe and America was at that time, and it has not changed 
much since, by referring to an excellent article on the subject in a 
book entitled American Inland Waterivays, by Herbert Quick, pub- 
lished at about the time the tw.o commissions were doing their 
work. From a chapter in this volume, headed " Terminals a Vital 
but Neglected Matter," we desire to select a number of outstanding 
facts. We shall quote the author verbatim in part and in part we 
shall give the substance but not the exact words. Also we shall 
add a few facts gleaned elsewhere. The chief original sources of 
information .on terminals, it may be said parenthetically, are the 
reports of the three commissions we shall mention presently.. This 
article reveals a broad outlook and a keen appreciation of the whole 
terminal field and the presentation of the subject is so lucid and 
convincing that the Barge Canal Terminal Commission reprinted 
the chapter in its entirety as an appendix to its final report. 

It must be remembered that Europe led America by several 
years in caring for its terminal needs. .Mr. Quick displays for our 
view the contrasting situations on the two continents. He shows 
that as a rule the municipalities of Europe built, owned and con- 
trolled their terminals. Antwerp, a city .of fewer inhabitants than 
San Francisco and with only a few more than New Orleans, was 
the greatest port in Europe and second only to New York in the 
world. Fler warehouses, railway tracks and all transshipment facili- 

1 78 History of the Barge Canal 

ties were owned and administered by the city and had drawn to 
her wharves the shipping of the world. She had spent $45,ooo,cxx) 
and was spending $55,000,000 more. 

Hamburg had no natural advantages. Situated sixty miles up the 
Elbe, with mud and tide to contend with, by the spending of 
$100,000,000 she had made her terminals so attractive that her 
commerce was growing faster than that of any city, save New 
York and Antwerp, and had already equalled that of London. 

The docks at Liverpool were administered by a board so con- 
stituted that the interests of ship owners and shippers were consid- 
ered rather than that of profits in docks. Situated on an estuary, 
with a difference of thirty-one feet between tides, having shifting 
sand bars and silt at its mouth, still this port had been built up 
by its own efforts alone, with no local or imperial taxation and had 
become one of the greatest in the world. 

Rotterdam is another city that had won success by making her 
harbor a municipal monopoly. She had spent $30,000,000, but not 
a dollar was furnished by the genei^al Holland goverrmient. 

After struggling for eighteen years to get control of her harbor, 
Havre succeeded in 1900 and began improvements. The growth 
of her commerce since 1900 had been astonishing. Plans vmder 
way contemplated spending $17,000,000 in addition to the $42,- 
000,000 theretofore spent in making a harbor in an estuary with a 
tidal range of twenty-five feet and a bottom of shifting sand. 

Other cities were mentioned, such as Manchester, Bristol, Glas- 
gow and Newcastle, but this list will suffice. At London the story 
was somewhat different. Though still the greatest port in Great 
Britain, London had fallen behind New York, Antwerp and Ham- 
burg and her antiquated port administration had often been charged 
with blame for this decline. She was seeking a reform, but the 
interest she must pay on the $200,000,000 valuation of her docks 
showed the result of allowing them to fall into private hands. 

Turning to America, the picture is not so attractive. New York 
was preeminently first in commerce, for several reasons, but it is 
doubtful whether she could have reached her present height if she 
had not freed herself from private ownership of terminals. As it 
is, she has a very perplexing problem to find suitable new frontage 
for public docks for her wonderful traffic. 

At Philadelphia and Boston, the other two cities one would natu- 
rally expect to be the great ports on the Atlantic coast, conditions 
were all against water-borne traffic. Philadelphia owned some 
twenty docks, but most of them had less than nine feet of water. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 1 79 

In theory all her docks were open to the public, but practically they 
were controlled by private ownership. Boston owned no water- 
front except a few scattered landings of little importance. Nearly 
all the docks at Detroit were private property. So were the 
wharves of Providence — a city well situated for commerce. 
Duluth owned but a few ferry landings. The water-front at Wash- 
ington belonged to the United States but was leased to private 
parties. The largest artificial harbor in the world is at Buffalo, but 
the frontage was practically all under private control. Chicago, with 
possibilities of becoming the greatest of lake ports, had almost no 
public docks and owned no frontage suitable for building them, and 
her facilities for handling freight were so poor that it was not un- 
usual for boats to carry to Milwaukee goods consigned to Chicago 
and there ship to destination by rail. New Orleans and San 
Francisco were the two exceptions to the rule. They alone had 
instituted public control of terminals, somewhat after the manner 
of European cities. Montreal was the exception among Canadian 
ports. Out of fifty of the foremost United States ports only two, 
JMew Orleans and San Francisco, have practically complete public 
ownership and control of their active water frontage; eight have 
a small degree of control, and forty none at all. 

Another essential feature in the solution of transportation prob- 
lems is generally passed over lightly, as being «imply a part of the 
terminal facilities. It is indeed a part of these facilities, but how 
important a part will appear from a little study. Before actual 
transportation begins and after it ends it is necessary to load the 
goods and then unload them. This is the terminal charge, as the 
actual haulage is the carrying charge. No data are available to 
determine this terminal charge exactly. A well-known Chicago 
engineer, however, with a corps of assistants, has spent a year 
investigating the subject for commercial interests in Chicago. 
While his study was not completed and the calculations cannot be 
relied upon as accurate, they are thought by most freight ex- 
perts to be approximately correct. They point to the conclusion 
that on the average railway shipment in this country the terminal 
expense is equal to 250 miles of haulage and that the terminal 
charge for the average water shipment would be equivalent to about 
2,500 miles of carriage. 

These figures need no words to emphasize the fact that the lack 
of mechanical devices at terminals accounts for the decadence of 
our waterways or to point out a field worthy of the best trained 
technical men in the country. 

180 History of the Barge Canal 

The voyage from Chicago to Buffalo is less than a thousand miles. 
In a water shipment between these points the actual carriage would 
be about one-third and the terminal charge two-thirds of the cost. 
It is this two-thirds that offers opportunity for reduction. The in- 
stallation of docks and apparatus has in many instances cut the 
handling costs more than in half. This has been done in the ore, 
coal and wheat shipments on the Great Lakes. While the terminal 
charge on miscellaneous freight from Duluth to Qeveland is thought 
to be about twice the carrying charge, the efficient handling ma- 
chinery for wheat, ore and coal has so reduced the terminal charge 
that it just about equals the carr)ring charge. 

If, with these effective devices, half the cost of shipping coal 
from Qeveland to Duluth consists in loading and unloading, what 
can be said of the practice on the Mississippi? At St. Louis and 
Memphis negroes still load the river boats by carrying packages on 
their heads and reaching the boat by a narrow gang plank. At 
Vicksburg the only landing is a quagmire of mud. 

Quoting Mr. Quick with reference to freight-handling devices, 
" Where waterways are effectively used, here and abroad, the 
proper physical equipment of the terminals is taken for granted as 
an essential element in the business. The handling devices for the 
grain, ore and coal trades on the Great Lakes are among the com- 
mercial wonders of the world; esjiecially the splendid achieve- 
ment in freight handling by which ore is brought about a thou- 
sand miles from Duluth to Pittsburg, — loaded on ships, carried 
to a terminal on Lake Erie, transshipped to cars, and unloaded at 
the furnaces at a cost that makes it possible for our steel producers 
to command the markets of the world. But we have signally 
failed to solve the problems of handling miscellaneous and package 
freight on rivers and canals. Water traffic has been decadent 
because of the hopelessness of its contest with unregulated railway 
competition; and a decadent industry is apt to g^ve up at all points. 
But in the new era which we hope for, the commercial interests must 
adjust themselves to waterway methods of to-day at the best 
American and European ports, and not to those of the days when 
Mark Twain piloted the floating palaces on the ^Mississippi — float- 
ing palaces built for passengers and show, and not for the cutting 
off of the last fraction of a mill in the cost of taking a ton of 
freight from the bank, carrying it to its destination, and discharg- 
ing it. . . . 

" We have seen how daring is the enterprise of the great foreign 
ports in the matter of investments in docks, harbor improvements. 


- ,■ i^ 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 1 8 1 

dredging operations, and the like, and how independent the cities 
are of the general governments. It is quite as instructive to observe 
how complete is their realization of the necessity for efificient physi- 
cal equipment for freight handling. Our river cities may well copy 
these merits. With few exceptions our interior towns that im- 
portune the government for the deepening of channels seem desti- 
tute of any ideas as to the duties resting on themselves. If the 
Ohio river towns had done as much for themselves as the govern- 
ment has done for them, every village would have its public dock, 
every dock would have its warehouse, and every warehouse would 
have its machinery for transshipment, loading and unloading. The 
harbor manager would be a greater man than the mayor. The 
finances of the town would be to the extent of the taxing power 
at the service of the port. Money would be poured out for better 
boats than the antiquated craft now plying the river. Every hull 
would be capable of being thrown open from the top, and cranes 
capable of doing the work of the uncertain gangs of roustabouts 
at a fraction of the present expense would handle freight more 
cheaply than it is handled in the average railway freight house. 
The railway tracks would be taken out over the water on aerial 
structures where necessary^ and the expensive draying up and 
down steep levees would be ehminated. At the more important 
points specialized appliances w.ould be installed, and the town with 
ambitions toward real cityhood would retain the best engineers for 
the designing of terminals, to be its proudest achievement, and its 
greatest municipal undertaking. 

"Along all our rivers, lakes and canals the best brains in the 
technical world must in the future be engaged on the problems 
of saving this half or two thirds of the expense of transportation 
which is involved in handling and rehandling of freight. . . . 
From the public docks the huge packages will be swung by great 
cranes from the open holds of boats to the cars, and from cars to 
boats. As an example of the devices sometimes adopted to save 
time and the breaking of bulk, the methods of sending American 
meats into London may be cited. They are unloaded from the 
ships directly into delivery wagons at Southampton, the loaded 
delivery wagons are carried on cars to London, ready for the 
horses which haul them to the butchers' shops. In many places 
trains of cars are carried on boats Jvcross rivers and straits, and 
long distances by water. There seems to be no reason why grain, 
live stock, cotton, and much heavy freight which is costly to unload, 
and which must make a part of its trip to market by rail, should 

182 History of the Barge Canal 

not be carried on boats in the cars — the original shipping pack- 
ages. Neither does there seem any reason why huge boxes each 
containing a carload should not be made capable of being swung 
from the boat to the flat-car to which it might be fitted, and back 
to the boat again when necessary. The cranes capable of doing 
the work are alreadj' invented, and in use." 

The deplorable conditions existing in marine traffic through lack 
of handling machinery is seen when it is known that the terminal 
costs at Xew York and Liverpool exceed the hauling costs of the 
3,000-mile voyage. The following picture of the marine situation 
is illuminating: 

" The human worker still reigns practically supreme on the docks 
in all his primitive wastefulness. . He rolls up an annual 

payroll of millions ; he congests traffic by his complex and cumber- 
some motions. He strikes when he pleases and ties up whole har- 
bors. . . . 

" Half the commerce of the nation comes through The Nar- 
rows and is distributed from the whar\-es and piers in the vicinity 
of Greater Xew York. It comes in le\'iathans, but is seized upon by 
an army of human ants who spread themselves over the docks in a 
maze of inefficient and costly motion. . 

" In view of the immense volume of freight loaded and un- 
loaded by . . . vessels ever>' day, the paucit}' of handling 
facilities, viewed from the standpoint of modern business manage- 
ment, is almost incomprehensible." * 

After this brief review of the general terminal question we can 
follow with clearer vision the efforts of Xew York State to rid 
itself of an incubus which in the past had worked havoc but which 
under changing modern conditions threatened utter ruin to the 
canal system unless it should be removed. 

The act which nominated the Barge Canal Terminal Commission 
was written on liberal lines. The needs of the whole state were 
included in its scope and after the amendment of the following 
year little was omitted which might conspire to a full understand- 
ing of the whole subject. The task set the Commission was this — 
to quote the language of the law : " It shall be the dut}- of said 
commission to visit and inspect the various harbors in this state 
connected with the canals, as well as all harbors in this state where 
freight carried on the canals may be either received or discharged. 
It shall also be the duty of said commission to report to the legis- 

= Edward ilott W'oolley in Janriar.-. 1912, System. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 1 83 

lature at the earliest possible date, in detail its findings and its 
recommendations as to the harbors and canal termini, where, in its 
judgment, special facilities for receiving or discharging canal freight 
should be provided; as to available sites for such terminal struc- 
tures ; as) to the amount of land necessary to be taken at each point 
for such purposes ; also as to the character, extent and probable 
cost of construction and maintenance of each of such terminal 
structures; the revenues, if any possible to be derived therefrom; 
also generally as to matters that, to the commission, may seem 
pertinent to the subject." 

Four State officials were named as constituting this Commission, 
the four men who would be supposed by virtue of their office to 
have the welfare of the canals m,ost at heart. These were the 
State Engineer, Frank M. WilHams, the Superintendent of Public 
Works, Frederick C. Stevens, the chairman of the Advisory Board 
of Consulting Engineers, Edward A. Bond, and the Special Exam- 
iner and Appraiser of Canal Lands, Harvey J. Donaldson. At its 
first meeting the Commission elected Mr. Williams chairman and at 
a later meeting it appointed Alexander R. Smith to the position pf 
secretary. Charles S. Sterling served as engineer to the Comtnis- 
sion at first but later he was superseded by Charles Kiehm. Two 
of these men had been members of important former commissions, 
Mr. Bond (at that time State Engineer) of the Committee on 
Canals, and Mr. Smith ,of the New York Commerce Commission. 
It will be remembered that the Committee on Canals ^vas appointed 
by Governor Roosevelt in 1899, after the failure of the nine-million 
project, to study the whole canal question and recommend a State 
policy, and that the Commerce Commission was named by Gover- 
nor Black in 1898 to inquire into the causes of the decline and the 
means for the revival of the commerce of New York. 

The Commission attacked its arduous task with vigor and zest. 
It visited the cities and towns along the canal and also along its 
connecting natural waterways, both to see existing conditions and 
to discover the needs. It held many public hearings and the meet- 
ing places for these hearings were well scattered along the whole 
line ,of the waterways. It accumulated a vast amount of pertinent 
data and in this phase of the work it was generously aided of 
course by those who were promoting the claims of their particular 
localities. The work was too extensive to be finished in the single 
year first allotted and so the Legislature of 1910 added another 
year and at the same time made provision for the commissioners to 
visit Europe and there continue their studies. 

184 Historyi of the Barge Canal 

The Commission complied with the full mandate of the law and 
its final report contained not only the required estimates but also 
plans so carefully worked out that they served as a substantial 
basis for contract plans after the building of the terminals had 
been ordered by the State. Its report in fact was so complete and 
embodied so much of value on the whole study of terminals, both 
home and foreign, that it at once took a high place among the books 
of its class. If the term may be applied to technical subjects, it is 
scarcely stretching a point to call it a classic on waterway terminals. 
We shall turn to a somewhat detailed study of this report in a 

There was one phase of the terminal question, however, — that of 
grain elevators — which the Commission little more than touched 
upon. This was not due to lack of appreciation of the importance 
of elevators but rather to want of time to give the subject as 
thorough investigation as it deserved, and so the Commission had 
to content itself with recommending further investigation. When 
we come in proper sequence to look into this subject we shall see 
how very important a part of New York canals adequate elevators 
are. The reason for this condition is that the canals thr.ough 
New York state are, according to the claims of their friends, the 
rational outlet to the great grain belt of North America, a belt 
having an area of a million and a quarter square miles, a popula- 
tion of thirty millions of people and a production of five billion 
bushels annually. 

The three chief American reports on water terminals appeared 
at about the same time and in rapid succession. In 1910 a volume 
on the subject was published as the last of three volumes covering 
an exhaustive study of transportation by water in the United States, 
made under Herbert Knox Smith, United States Commissioner of 
Corporations, of the Department of Commerce and Labor. This 
third volume was devoted to the subject of terminals. Then in 
191 1 the final report of the Barge Canal Terminal Commission 
appeared, following a brief preliminary report of 1910. In 1912 
the United States National Waterways Commission made its final 
report. We have already quoted from this work. It too followed 
a preliminary report, submitted early in 1910. 

Obviously the time was ripe for the New York Commission to 
do its work and for terminal advocates to attain their end. The 
enlarf^ing of the canals had been in progress now for several }ears 
and if terminals were to be added their commencement could not 
be delayed much longer without danger of not having them finished 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 185 

when the channel should be ready for navigation. On the other 
hand, to have begun them much sooner would not have been wise. 
The people had voted an immense sum for improving their canals 
and seemingly they were in complaisant mood for completing the 
job thoroughly. Waterway agitation was rife throughout the east- 
ern and middle states. The report of the Terminal Commission, 
when it came, contained illuminating data in abundance and its 
arguments for terminals were evidently convincing. But aside from 
this report, for most of the people .of the state never saw it, there 
appeared to be abroad among a majority of the folk at least a 
meager appreciation of that which had become so obvious in Europe 
as to need no argument and which was gradually but surely gain- 
ing credence here, namely, that canals of necessity must have 
adequate and pubHcly-controlled terminal facilities. Doubtless the 
researches of the three National or State commissions, operating 
directly or through magazine articles and press editorials which 
they induced, were responsible for this molding of public opinion. 
When the question came to popular vote on the New York canals 
there was no strenuous contest, such as the days of 1903 had wit- 
nessed. It seemed almost as if the friends of the canals were so 
sure ,of victory that they deemed it of litt'e importance to bestir 
themselves. It is noteworthy, moreover, that of several referenda 
submitted to the people in 191 1 that for canal terminals was the 
only one to receive approval. 

But we have not yet stopped to inquire what a canal terminal is. 
The varying conditions of different kinds of traffic introduce many 
minor factors which go to make up satisfactory terminals, but in 
general there are only a few fundamental requirements for all 
waterway terminals. The Commissioner of Corporations in his 
report gave this number as four and even .one of these might on 
occasion have to be dispensed with. We may well adopt his classi- 
fication. These four essentials are : (a) Good wharves, (b) ware- 
houses and storage facilities, (c) mechanical appliances for the 
handling or transshipping of freight, and (d) — that which is 
highly important though not always practicable — belt-line railway 
connections with adjacent railroads and industrial concerns, so as 
to coordinate water with rail transportation and with local produc- 
tion and distribution. Sufficient depth of water of course is also 
necessary, but this is a feature of the channel rather than the ter- 
minal problem. 

We are not now making an exhaustive study of the terminal 
question and s.o we need not delve too deeply into the wealth of 

186 HistoT's of the Barge Canal 

material contained in the Terminal Commission's report, but there 
are a few statements in it, aside from the estimates and recom- 
mendations, which we should know; they illumine both the ter- 
minal and the general canal problems, ^^'e shall mention them 
before we give the estimates and recommendations. 

A study which the Commission made of existing and past canal 
traffic showed that the local freight being carried on the State canals 
was several times as great as the amount of tiirough freight. Also 
that for a long period, at least fort)- 3ears, the annual tonnage 
of local freight had remained almost a fixed quantity, while the 
through freight had dropped to one-fifth of what it was forty 
years earlier and only one-sixth of what it was thirty years earlier. 
Both of these facts were rather surprising in the light of popular 
belief. Somehow the people of the state had come to regard the 
canal as of little local value and moreover of use chiefi)' to carry 
cargoes which simply passed through the state from lakes to ocean. 
This revelation of both the preponderance and the stability of local 
traffic was well calculated to cheer the citizens of the state and 
also it proclaimed the need for terminals at the various inland canal 

There was a further study, moreover, which disclosed facts that 
might measurably fortify whatever feeling of satisfaction the peo- 
ple had. This was a study to ascertain how many tons of com- 
modities suitable for canal traffic were produced in the mills and 
factories of the towns which were situated on the Barge canal. In 
making this compilation only such products were included as were 
generally carried in bulk and for which rapidity of passage was 
not an important factor. A total of a little more than ten and a 
half million tons was shown, valued at well over two hundred 
million dollars. 

\^'e recall that the law authorizing the canal had fixed its carry- 
ing capacit}' by stipulating that the supply of water for the Erie 
branch should be sufficient for at least ten million tons annually. 
By a strange coincidence this study showed that there were pro- 
duced, virtually upon the canal banks, this very amount of com- 
modities which properly should be shipped by canal. The people 
of the state thus had it in their power to become themselves the 
recipients of the full beneficence originally planned for the canal, 
without leaving room for outsiders to enjoy the State's generosity. 
The total capacit}- of the canal, however, it may be added, is 
actually close to twent}' million tons. The facts revealed by this 
study may have had some weight in deciding the popular vote on 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 187 

the terminals, but doubtless they have been forgotten long since by 
most persons, for those most intimately concerned have not yet 
made large use of the completed canal. 

The decline in the amount of freight carried on the canals was 
well known, but that this falling off was entirely in the through 
freight was a fact that perhaps had not been fully "realized until 
this study was made by the Terminal Commission. The decline 
was attributed by the Commission largely to the lack of independent 
terminal facilities at Buffalo and New York and to the increasing 
control by the railroads of terminals not only at Buffalo but also 
throughout the Great Lakes region. A contributing cause was 
one which we have not yet mentioned but which has been responsi- 
ble for much of the failure of waterways to get their due share of 
traffic. This was the refusal by railroads to prorate on through 
routes where freight w.ould naturally go part way by rail and part 
way by water. This of course is but a piece of the generally hos- 
tile attitude railroads have assumed toward all canals and canal 
boat lines not their own. In 1917 the New York Legislature 
enacted a law aimed at the correction of this condition — an act to 
regulate joint rail and water routes. 

This subject of the relationship between railroads and waterv.-ays 
contains many phases besides the one just mentioned and is a most 
important topic, but we shall leave the full discussion for a later 
chapter. We may just add a sentence or two. Speaking of the 
refusal of railroads to prorate with water carriers, the National 
Waterways Commission says, " In many cases the route, which ap- 
parently is the natural one, would be by water for three-fourths or 
more of this distance, yet the charge for the remaining railway haul 
is 50 considerable as to render carriage for the longer haul by water 
unprofitable." Viewing the subject from a slightly different angle, 
the Terminal Commission says, " The railroads have always refused 
to either prorate or through-rate with canal carriers but, on the 
contrary, have only been willing to receive freight brought to them 
by canal boats in the most unusual and expensive manner, such as 
by forcing them to discharge their freight at places other than rail- 
road wharves, and then team it to the railroad wharves, instead of 
allowing them to come directly to the railroad wharves, and there 
discharge their freight. By refusing, on the other hand, to deliver 
freight to canal boats at their wharves, they have been able to pre- 
vent them from carrying large quantities of freight that would 
otherwise have been shipped by the canals." 

188 History of the Barge Canal 

In amplification of the first explanation we mentioned for the 
falling off of through freight, namely, the lack of terminal facilities 
at Buffalo and New York, the Terminal Commission says : 

" This subject of terminals was considered at some length by 
the New York State Commerce Commission, in its report made to 
the Legislature, on January 25, 1900, and all that that Commission 
then said may be as aptly repeated at this time as then. 

" Upon the suggestion of Governor Roosevelt, the members of 
that Commission went to Chicago, St. Paul, ^Minneapolis and 
Duluth, and there interviewed the larger shippers, particularly those 
who shipped flour and packing house products east, and the state- 
ments made by these western merchants is most illuminating as to 
the reasons why such commodities are no longer shipped for export 
via the port of New York, the chief reason advanced being that 
there were no places in Buffalo affording independent terminal 
facilities. We quote from the statements of that State Commission 
of eleven years ago, in part, as follows : 

" 'Agents of the great flour mills, who ship annually millions of 
barrels of flour to Europe, who appeared before this Commission in 
New York, and the officials of the mills in Minneapolis and in 
Duluth all imited in the statement that lack of canal terminal facili- 
ties for package freight alone prevents flour coming to New York 
by way of the canal, which is now sent to the outports.' 

"Again we quote from the report of the New York Commerce 
Commission : 

" 'Agents of the great provision merchants of Chicago have also 
made clear to this commission their inability to use the canal for 
their business because of the lack of canal terminals.' " 

When the Terminal Commission came to make its recommenda- 
tions, much stress was laid on the need of adequate fa-cilities at 
New York city. Why this metropolitan district was entitled to 
so much consideration and why so large a share of the appropria- 
tion eventually fell to its lot, we may understand perhaps by listen- 
ing to what the Commission has to say relative to the volume, the 
growth and the importance of traffic in the port of Ne^v York and 
also the insufficiency of its facilities for handling that traffic. Pre- 
cise information on the volume was not available but several trust- 
worthy estimates had been made and these did not differ widely. 
The Commission was confident that at least half of all water-borne 
traffic of the United States centered in this harbor, and the total 
tonnage in the nation, as reported in a Federal document which had 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 1 89 

been prepared with great care from the almost unUmited official 
data, was 256,000,000 tons per annum. 

Speaking of the growth of foreign commerce in the port of 
New York, the Commission states that between 1880 and 1898 
there was no increase, and then, after mentioning the succeeding 
rapid increase and the relatively small increase in wharfage accom- 
modations, pertinently asks the question, " If, at the end of a period 
of stagnation in the growth of New York's foreign commerce, 
extending over eighteen years, there was such a serious lack of 
sufficient wharfage as to force steamship lines to other ports to 
secure the accommodations they required, as testified by the presi- 
dent of the dock board in 1899, what can the condition be now, 
twelve years later, when there has been an increase of 87 per cent 
in the foreign commerce of the port, as well as a very large in- 
crease in the coastwise and local traffic besides? With but 23 per 
cent of increased wharfage during that period, inclusive of the very 
large and costly works to which we have referred above, mani- 
festly the congestion of traffic along the most desiralble and most 
usefal waterfront of the city of New York must at the present 
time be acute, and extremely ominous." 

The port of New York, in its foreign trade, its coastwise trade 
and its local harbor traffic, stands without a rival in America. But 
greater still, it outranks all other ports of the world in the volume 
and the value of its commerce. Several things have conspired to 
this end — its priceless and ample natural harbor, its admirable 
arrangement of land areas surrounded and divided by deep water 
channels, its preeminence as the metropolis of the western hemi- 
sphere, and more than all, perhaps, its situation at the outlet of 
Nature's gateway to a vast interior, a gateway through the only 
practicable route in United States territory for a waterway and the 
best route for a railway from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic coast, 
a sort of " Northwest Passage " to the heart of the continent. 

We remember in this connection that the original Erie canal 
had much to do with making New York the chief American port 
in the early days and thus in giving it an initial upward trend 
which enabled it to continue in its success and to retain its proud 
estate. Moreover, we recall that before the canal was built New 
York had not been the first port of the land, that before that time it 
had even been among the more backward of the colonial ports. 

It is when New York is compared with other ports of the United 
States that its glory is brightest, its preeminence most conspicuous, 
its claim to leadership unapproachable. But on the other hand, if 

190 History of the Barge Canal 

it were to retain its lead in the world and keep ahead of its great 
rivals in Europe, the need for better facilities and a larger growth 
could not be neglected. 

New York is not well situated for any general railroad occupancy ; 
its insularity precludes that. But this very isolation, aided by 
favorable configuration between various parts of the greater city, 
is a boon to water-borne traffic. If the New Jersey shore opposite 
New York city is considered as a part of the port of New York, 
then there is in this port a total water frontage on rivers, bay, 
sound and ocean of 444 miles. But until recent years there has 
been no inclination to regard this as a single port. Political 
boundaries have held taut; the two States have each had their 
separate methods and machinery of control and the result has been 
contention and hostility. Nature made this one incomparable port; 
man has striven to defeat the intent of Nature. But this old-time 
stupidity is now passing and it seems probable the present efforts 
for harmonious, united control will soon be in such complete 
working order as to carry out some comprehensive and already 
partially perfected plans for improvements that will increase abun- 
dantly the facilities so sorely needed. This is a subject by itself, 
however, and considerably later in occurrence than the terminal 
agitation. It should not be injected into the present discussion. 
In due time we shall recur to it. 

We have been considering general traffic conditions in New 
York harbor. The whole picture of inadequate facilities is cheer- 
less enough, but when we turn to view the accommodations afforded 
canal shipping it becomes so dark as to be utterly doleful, and the 
wonder grows that the canals could have continued even to do 
any business whatsoever against such overpowering odds. To 
quote the Terminal Commission : " In New York city there has 
never been any section of the improved waterfront, not even at the 
so-called canal basins, or canal districts, where there were any 
facilities, other than the unshedded whanes, for the accommoda- 
tion of freight destined for shipment over the canals, or for freight 
received from the canals. There has, even at such open wharves, 
been no one to receive and care for any freight that might be 
received either for shipment over the canals, or that might be 
received at them by canal boats for local use. Lacking these 
essentials to the modern handling and carriage of freight it was 
inevitable that the through business should have almost vanished." 

The Commission goes on to cite a single exception to this con- 
dition. In the case of certain commodities which could not bear 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 191 

railroad rates the agents for the railroads would contract for ship- 
ping this freight as far as Buffalo by canal, and thus there came 
into existence what, in the parlance of the canal world, were known 
as " canal lines." These were not lines at all, but were individually- 
owned b.oats, chartered intermittently by the railroads. As canal 
boats had to be sufficiently loaded to pass under the bridges, owners 
were usually glad to charter their craft and generally the railroad 
agents were able to drive a hard bargain on west-bound cargoes. But 
boats had then become few and these canals lines, once the fictitious 
property of the railroads, had almost disappeared. 

New York city's neglect of canal interests and its disposition to 
do as little as possible for the accommodation of canal shipping 
were notorious. Indeed, so pronounced were they that it would 
seem that the city deserved but little consideration from the State 
in the matter of terminals. By legislative direction two places on 
Manhattan had been reserved in part for the benefit of canal 
boats, but these places were without sheds or .other facilities and 
only so much had been done by the city as wa;s necessary to con- 
form to the mere letter rather than the spirit of the law. But this 
attitude of intentional neglect was chargeable to former city admin- 
istrations, which had regarded the water-front almost wholly as a 
means for increasing municipal revenues, rather than to the public 
in general and moreover this attitude was changing. Because of 
this former maladministration, however, the Terminal Commission 
advised that any terminals erected by die State in the city of New 
York should not be put under the control of the city authorities. 

If New York city had been at fault in neglecting canal accom- 
modations, the other cities and towns of the state had done Httle 
better. In none of them had there been even a semblance of a pol- 
icy or system adopted for the improvement or development of its 
water-front. On the contrary these municipalities had permitted 
private interests — chiefly railroads — to acquire the choicest water- 
front properties, much to the embarrassment of water carriers and 
in no degree helpful to the promotion of water-borne commerce. 

What the Terminal Commission said concerning the relationship 
existing between railroads and waterways in Europe is worth 
noting. In all countries except Great Britain and southern France 
there seemed to be a general and complete interchange of freight 
between rail and water lines, transfers being made directly between 
cars and barges, at a minimum of expense and a maximum of 
speed. The result of this fair dealing between the two systems 
showed conclusively that the railroads were quite as great benefi- 

192 History of the Barge Canal 

ciaries of such relations as were the water routes. The railroads 
were not compelled to spend their money in roadbeds and equip- 
ment for handling great quantities of heavy, low-grade, low-priced 
materials, which paid but little in freight charges, but could devote 
their equipment and their development to accommodating the 
higher-priced commodities, that paid better rates, and to transport- 
ing passengers, thus being able to pay large dividends on the 
capital invested. 

Another noteworthy observation made by the Commission while 
in Europe was that there prevailed in those countries a belief, 
seemingly everj-where accepted as sound, that in waterways com- 
plete efficiency was the chief abjective and expense a secondary 
consideration, also that the general good and the material advance- 
ment of State and city were immeasurably more to be sought after 
than direct financial returns sufficient to replace the moneys ex- 
pended, and that these indirect benefits were so substantial as fully 
to justify a continuance of improvements and an enlargement of 
facilities, although the money sunk in them might never be directly 
returned to the states and municipalities advancing it. Indeed, it 
was seen that at many harljors tlie authorities did not expect to 
recover all that was expended annually even in maintenance and 
administration, contenting themselves with the indirect and satis- 
fying benefits following in the wake of cheap transportation. 

In connection with this thought we desire to emulate the Ter- 
minal Commission in calling attention to New York State's gen- 
erous canal policy, which is in exact accord with the advanced 
ideas reached in Europe after many years of experience. In 1882, 
after more than sixty years of canal tolls, which had actually 
returned to the public treasury several millions more than the 
canals had cost in building and maintenance, the State opened its 
waterways free for the use of all without tolls or dues of any kind. 
And within two years after the tolls had been abolished the State 
commenced enlarging its canal locks and this was but the begin- 
ning of a series of improvements which have continued virtually to 
the present day and which have been gigantic beyond even the 
dream of anjthing that had gone before. And in all of these 
enormous expenditures since 1882 there has been no possibility of 
direct return. It would seem that in this willingness to spend their 
millions, which will be repaid only in the coin of general welfare, 
we can read nothing other than the belief of the people of the 
state in their canals. And this belief has been attested repeatedly. 
First the canals were freed from tolls by an overv.helming major- 



Terminal Commission and Terminals 193 

ity ; at each succeeding improvement authority for new expenditures 
has been v.oted without .stint; on several occasions, and always by 
large majorities, the Constitutional dictum has been reaffirmed that 
the canals shall not be sold but " shall remain the property of the 
State and under its management forever." Evidently the people, 
whenever they are required to think deeply on the subject, deem 
their canals a mighty force in their hands and consider that they 
may use this force for controlling rates and (bettering transporta- 
tion, greatly to the benefit of all and for the advancement of the 
public good. 

Before giving the recommendations of the Terminal Commission 
we desire to pause long enough to enumerate the ports inspected in 
Europe by the commissioners. They visited Great Britain, France, 
Belgium, Holland and Germany. Their report contains a pains- 
taking general study of terminal conditions and growth of traffic 
in each of these countries and also detailed descriptions, often ac- 
companied by maps, of the principal ports. All but one or two of 
these ports they visited in person and the list includes London, 
Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Goole and Glasgow in Great Britain ; 
Rouen and Paris in France ; Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium ; 
Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland, and Cologne, Diisseldorf, 
Duisburg-Ruhrort, Dortmund, Mannheim, Strassburg, Kehl, Frank- 
fort-on-Main, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Kosel and Breslau in 

In its final report the Terminal Commission recommended that 
the State appropriate sixteen and a half million dollars for con- 
structing and equipping pulblic terminals for the Barge canal. The 
cities it designated as the places for such terminals were Buffalo, 
the Tonawandas, Rochester, Syracuse, Oswego, Utica, Schenectady, 
^Whitehall, Troy (two terminals), Albany and |New York. For 
New York thirteen terminals were advised, at the following sites: 
Spuyten Duyvil, West 1135th street. West 78th street. West 51st to 
54th streets, Gansevoort street. Vestry street. Canal basin on East 
river, Grand street, Sherman creek, Mott Haven, East 136th street, 
Newtown creek and Gowanus bay. The Commission had studied 
the peculiar needs at each of these places and had made plans to 
suit the requirements for each proposed terminal. In its recom- 
mendations the number and length of piers or dockwalls, the 
amount of land required, the size of storehouse, the kind of freight- 
handling machinery and other like details of construction were 
named and an estimate of cost given, but these particulars do not 


194 History of the Barge Canal 

concern us except to show the minute care with which the investi- 
gation was carried out. The total of the estimates submitted for 
the cost of each terminal was $166,408,315. This included an item 
of $600,000 for terminals at the smaller cities and towns, not 
sf>ecifically named. The estimate .of annual expense for maintain- 
ing all of these terminals was $120,413. 

The Commission made fifteen further recommendations, all of 
which were important and had a more or less direct bearing on 
several phases of the terminal and general canal problems of the 

These were succinctly put and we quote the words of the report 
as follows: 

" I. Plans for terminal structures should be prepared by the 
State Engineer and Surveyor and their construction carried out 
under his direction when such plans have the approval of the 
Canal Board. 

" 2. The terminals should be administered under the direction 
of the State Superintendent of Public Works. 

" 3. Charges for use of terminal facilities should be fixed by 
schedule established by the authorit)- having the terminals in charge, 
when approved by the Canal Board. 

" 4. The Federal Government should be urged to undertake the 
straightening of the Harlem Ship canal at the Johnson Iron works 
at the earliest possible moment. The State, the city of New York 
and the borough of the Bronx should co-operate in securing the 
necessary right of way. 

" 5. The Federal Government should be urged to improve the 
Bronx kills to a depth of at least fifteen feet at mean low tide. 

" 6. The city of New York should clear the unnecessary 
obstruction to navigation in the Harlem river by removing from 
the channel the piers of High bridge. 

" 7. The State should retain title to all its lands under water 
and to all canal lands except such as it may advantageously 
exchange for other lands better adapted for canal or terminal 
purposes. Any private occupation of State-owned lands should be 
by lease for a definite term, except such as border directly upon 
the canals, in which case leases should be revokable at the pleasure 
of the Superintendent of Public \\'orks. Private occupation of 
State-owned lands should yield a reasonable revenue to the State. 

" 8. The title to all water power created incidental to the con- 
struction of the Barge canal should be held by the State and such 
power leased for terms of reasonable length. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 195 

" 9. Legislative authority should be given to each municipality 
located on a lake or river "to control the development of its water- 
front by reasonable regulations regarding erection of bulkheads, 
piers and other structures. 

" 10. The city of New York should reconvey to the State a 
section of the land under water in Jamaica bay for terminal pur- 
poses to be selected when the improvement of the bay makes it 

" III. The State Engineer should be directed to make an accu- 
rate survey of the suggested canal to connect Jamaica and Flush- 
ing bays, and the necessary appropriation for the expense thereof 
should be made. 

" 12. The bridges yet to be built in connection with Barge canal 
construction on the Oswego and Seneca rivers between Lake 
Ontario and Onondaga lake should be so constructed as to be 
readily convertible without unnecessary expense from a fixed to a 
movable type. 

"13. A commission composed of representatives of the leading 
commercial organizations in different parts of the State should 
investigate conditions affecting interchange of freight, the subject 
of prorating and through-rating, the recognition of through bills 
of lading and of low through-rates at points of interchange, as 
between water and rail carriers, also the relation of the grain 
elevators, fixed and floating, to rail and water carriers, in this 
State. I : : :\ i 

" 14. The Legislature should direct the State Attorney-'General 
to participate in behalf of the State in the proceedings before the 
Interstate Commerce Commission for the abolition of the differ- 
ential on freight from Chicago to New York and vice versa. 

" 15. Some competent authority should be designated to make a 
study of the various types of barges with a view of recorrimending 
that type which is best suited to the enlarged canals." * 

There was no long interim between the presentation of this 
report and the carrying out of its main recommendation. The 
report was transmitted on March i, 1911, and before the session 
of the Legislature which received it came to an end an act had 
been passed authorizing the construction of canal terminals. Re- 
sponse to some of the minor recommendations was incorporated 
in the terminal act but others were not so quick to receive attention. 
We shall see later how the State eventually paid heed to some of 

♦Volume I, pp. 178-180. 

^96 History of the Barge Canal 

the latter class, how a board of conference was named to devise 
means for promoting the projects which involved the straighten- 
ing of the Harlem at the Johnson iron works, the deepening of 
the Bronx kills and the removal of obstructions at High bridge, 
how the State Engineer was directed to survey the Jamaica- 
Flushing route, how adjustment of the relationships between rail 
and water carriers was attempted by legislative act, how provision 
was made for building some of the needed grain elevators and how 
a commission on Barge canal operation was instructed to report 
on the type of boat best suited to navigate the new canal. The 
discussion of these subjects will come in due course. We have 
anticipated the action on the Oswego canal bridge prdblem and 
already have described the result of this recommendation. 

With the filing of this report the Terminal Gammission went out 
of existence. There had been a political turnover in State admin- 
istrative affairs at the beginning of 191 1 and two members of the 
Commission, Mr. Williams and 'Mr. Stevens, had been superseded 
by new incumbents in their respective offices of State Engineer 
and Superintendent of Public Works. But the pushing of terminal 
agitation was taken up by canal advocates. At the call of State 
Waterways Association officials, representatives assembled at 
Albany from the leading mimicipalities throughout the state at 
what was termed a Barge Canal Terminal Conference and the 
result was the drafting of a bill and its introduction in the Legis- 
lature. Numerous towns which had not been mentioned specifically 
in the Commission's recommendations grasped their opportunity and 
secured their inclusion in the drafted bill, some of them having 
employed engineers meantime to prepare tentative plans and 

The act carried an appropriation of $19,800,000 and so, of course, 
by reason of the constitutional inhibition to vote more than one 
million dollars without approval by the people at a general election, 
it became a referendum in the fall of 191 1. No very marked 
opposition to the measure <arose and there was no especially aggres- 
sive campaign in its favor. In general public sentiment seemed to 
accept as sound the argument that inasmuch as a vast sum was 
being spent to modernize the canals it was well to increase the 
amount by the few other millions needed to make the original 
expenditure completely eflfective. But the small majority in its 
favor, only 4,416, and the large degree of apathy displayed (more 
than half a million blank votes) taught canal advocates to bestir 
themselves when their next proposition came before the people. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 1 97 

Before we consider what the terminal act authorized and also 
in order that we may know just what things were to be provided 
under the law, it may be well to see how the act defined the word 
terminal, what it presumed to include in this rather broad term. 
Section one of the law reads, " The words ' terminal ' and ' ter- 
minals ' as used in this act shall mean and include lands, docks, 
dock walls, bulkheads, wharves, piers, slips, basins, harbors, struc- 
tures, tracks, facilities and equipment for loading and unloading 
and temporarily storing freight transported upon the Barge canals 
of this State." 

The law stipulated definitely where the terminals should be built 
and fixed with consideralble detail the character and the extent 
of construction at each locality. It also set apart a given sum which 
might be expended in building each terminal. The places specified 
in the act included Erie basin and Ohio basin at Buffalo, North 
Tonawanda, Tonawanda, Rochester, Lyons, Syracuse, Oswego, 
Utica, Rome, Troy (two sites), Albany and fourteen localities in 
New York city, as follows: Port of Call near Dyckman street. 
West 135th street. West 78th street. West 53d street, Gansevoort 
street. Vestry street. Piers 5 and 6 on East river, Piers 4 and 7 on 
East river, Broome and Grand streets, Sherman creek, 150th street 
on Harlem river. East 136th street, Newtown creek and Gowanus 
bay. At each of these prospective terminals the details of con- 
struction and the amount of money to be spent were set forth in 
the act, except that the allotment for New York city was named 
as a lump sum. The law further provided terminals for Lockport, 
Herkimer, Little Falls, Fort Plain, Canajoharie, Schenectady, 
Rouses Point, Port Henry, Plattsburg, Whitehall ^nd Mechanic- 
ville and appropriated a certain amount of money for each, but it 
did not specify any details of plan. Then it contained another list, 
which included Amsterdam, Fultonville, Qyde, Palatine Bridge, 
Port Gibson, St. Johnsville, Constantia, Waterloo, Newark, Pal- 
myra, Fairport, Ilion, Spencerport, Brockport, Holley, Albion, 
Frankfort, Medina, Cohoes, Waterford, Fort Edward, Seneca Falls, 
Ithaca, and Geneva, at which places terminals might be built if 
certain conditions as to filing petitions by local officials and citizens 
were complied with and if thereafter certain designated canal 
officials upon due investigation were in favor of granting the 
petitions. Inclusion in this last list really availed these particular 
localities nothing, however, since the same privilege of petition was 
accorded any other place for which no specific terminal provision 
was made in the law. One other terminal location was mentioned — 

198 HistoTji of the Barge Canal 

Jamaica bay — .but nothing was to be done here until the Legis- 
lature should make special appropriation for the work. 

In matters of general procedure the law made substantially the 
same provisions as those under which the canal was being built. 
As we have seen in our former study the Barge canal act con- 
tained a few rather bold innovations as to the manner of awarding 
contracts and prosecuting contract work. These had been foimd 
to work well and were repeated in the terminal law. The Canal 
Board, as in general canal affairs, was the supreme governing 'body. 
The State Engineer was to make the plans and supervise the 
construction. The Superintendent of Public Works was to operate 
and maintain the terminals after their completion. The making 
of rules and regulations to govern the use of the terminals devolved 
upon the Canal Board. 

The framers of the law foresaw the danger of individuals or 
corporations trying to monopolize the terminals and therefore care- 
ful provision was made to prevent the success of any such attempt. 
The use of the terminals was to be restricted to such reasonable 
time as was necessary for the transshipment of goods and any 
privilege of occupancy was at any and all times to be revokable by 
the Canal Board. As specifically stated in the law the terminals 
were to remain the property of the State and be under its manage- 
ment and control forever. The law in this particidar reads as 
follows : 

" The terminals provided for in this act when constructed shall 
be and remain the property of the State, and all of said terminals, 
including docks, locks, dams, bridges and machinery, shall be 
operated by it and shall remain under its management and control 
forever. None of such terminals or any part of any such terminals 
shall be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of, nor shall they be 
neglected or allowed to fall into decay or disuse, but they shall be 
maintained for, and they shall not for any purpose whatsoever be 
in any manner or degree diverted from the uses for which they 
are by this act created." 

In choosing sites and making plans for terminals the State 
Engineer was granted liberal discretion by the law. His general 
policy of construction was first to provide two things — the neces- 
sary depth of water in harbor or slips and the terminal land area 
with its accompanying dockwall and piers. These he followed with 
warehouses, paving, tracks and the like, and finally he a-dded freight- 
handling machinery. The wisdom of this order and also of a 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 199 

certain deliberateness of procedure, which has characterized the 
whole terminal work, will be obvious on a little thought. New sec- 
tions of completed channel were being opened for navigation every 
year and by following this policy there were appearing along with 
these sections terminals which, though perhaps lacking storehouse 
and handling facilities, still were available for use. Also as the 
canal came into greater general use there was opportunity to learn 
by experience what kind of traffic was being developed at the 
several localities. This knowledge was essential, for the records 
of the old canal gave little indication of what might be expected 
of the new canal, and the kind of traffic, of course, would determine 
what type of machinery should be provided. 

We do not propose to follow now the course of terminal con- 
struction, but an enumeration of all the terminals which have been 
built seems in order at the present time. In the first of the fol- 
lowing two lists there are mentioned fifty-six localities. These are 
the places where terminals have been built with money appropriated 
by the terminal law, although at a few of them vertical walls built 
in channel construction were utilized for terminal dockwalls. This 
list contains terminals of various kinds, all the way from the 
elaborate creations in New York harbor, where immense sheds on 
long piers are crowded daily with goods which are handled by 
the latest type of electrically-operated device or even where a two- 
million -bushel grain elevator with all its intricate parts is being 
erected, to the simple structure at some small hamlet, where the 
whole equipment consists of nothing more than a wall at which 
boats may land, a leveled area back of it and a humble frame store- 
house, and even the storehouse may sometimes be lacking. With 
but one or two exceptions, where work has been halted for some 
reason, this list enumerates the places where efficient terminals have 
now been built. 

Arranged in topographic order, beginning at the Lake Erie end, 
the list runs as follows: Buffalo (Ohio basin), Buffalo (Erie 
basin), Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, Lockport (upper terminal), 
Lockport (lower terminal), Middleport, Medina, Albion, Holley, 
Brockport, Spencerport, Rochester, Newark, Lyons, Ithaca, Weeds- 
port, Syracuse, Oswego (river terminal), Oswego (lake terminal), 
Constantia, Cleveland, Rome, Utica, Frankfort, Ilion, Herkimer, 
Little Falls, St. Johnsville, Fort Plain, Canajoharie, Fonda, 
Amsterdam, Schenectady, Crescent, Cohoes, Troy (upper terminal), 
Troy (lower terminal), Albany, Mechanicville, Schuylerville, Thorn- 

200 History of the Barge Canal 

son, Fort Edward, Whitehall, Port Henry, Plattsburg, Rouses Point 
and the following in New York: West 53d street. Pier 5 (East 
river). Pier 6 (East river), Gowanus bay, Greenpoint, Long' Island 
City, Hallets Cove, Mott Haven and Flushing. 

The second list contains eight names. These are the places where 
terminals exist by virtue of walls built under the Barge canal act, 
none of the terminal funds having been devoted to them. They 
are Pittsford, Fairport, Palmyra, Seneca Falls, Baldwinsville, Ful- 
ton, Brewerton and \\'aterford. The whole number of terminals, 
it thus appears, is sixty-four. Few towns of size along the canal 
are without some terminal facilities. 

The adding of terminals to the canal project had been delayed so 
long after the beginning of the canal itself that speed in the new 
venture was essential. Accordingly, as soon as the result of the 
official canvass of votes was known, on December 13, 1911, State 
Engineer Bensel appointed an engineer to take general charge of 
this work. The appointee was John A. O'Connor, who was elevated 
from the position of Division Engineer of the FLastern division, and 
his new title was Terminal Engineer. 

Speed was made also in beginning the work of construction. By 
August of the following year the first contracts were awarded and 
before the year closed terminal work at Ithaca, Albany, Little Falls, 
Mechanicville, Whitehall, Fort Edward, Schenectady, Herkimer, 
Fonda, Ilion, Amsterdam, Rome and Lockport was under contract. 
Location plans for a dozen more terminals had received the Canal 
Board's approval and the work of preparing plans for them was 
under way or in some cases was completed. It had been found 
advisable to study local needs quite carefully before beginning the 
preparation of plans. The State Engineer conducted hearings at 
towns where terminals were to be built and through these con- 
sultations he got the local points of view concerning both the best 
sites and the existing and prospective traffic requirements. As we 
have seen, the terminal act in a broad sense fixed the locations and 
described the character of construction, but exact sites and definite* 
details were left to later determination. The State Engineer and 
the Superintendent of Public Works decided as to sites, their 
decision being subject to the approval of the Canal Board. The 
contract plans were worked out with careful study in the State 
Engineer's department and then were submitted to the Canal Board 
for approval. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 201 

In his annual report for 1912 the State Engineer called attention 
to the omission of an important section of the state from participa- 
tion in the terminal project. No cities or villages on the Hudson 
river between Albany and New York had been included. To be 
sure the Hudson river below Albany had never been looked upon 
by either officials or the public as really a part of the State water- 
way system, but there was no logical reason for this view and 
under the new, order, wherein the larger portions of the old-time 
canals were themselves river canalizations, the last vestige of reason 
for excluding the Hudson river from the State system was gone. 
Then too New York was a Hudson river city and it had received 
a very generous portion, almost half in fact, of the terminal allot- 
ment. The State Engineer did well therefore in suggesting that 
this omission be righted. 

Since this particular part of our study has to do chiefly with the 
account of terminal agitation and authorization rather than the 
record of construction, we may with propriety at the present 
juncture follow the fortunes of these canal terminals for Hudson 
river towns. Although the State Engineer had made his suggestion 
in 1912, it was 1918 before the Legislature took the first stpp 
in response. In his report for 191 5, however, State Engineer Wil- 
liams, in discussing the question of finances in connection with 
terminal construction, said that at certain places the development 
contemplated by the act could be accomplished for less than the 
amounts set apart for those places and recommended legislative 
action to permit the using of these balances for other terminals 
and in his opinion some of the cities along the Hudson might well 
be chosen for this purpose. The Legislature of 1918 (by chapter 
555) ordered the construction of canal terminals at four Hudson 
river cities, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh and Yonkers, but 
aside from a sum for making surveys and plans it provided funds 
simply for the purchase of the necessary sites. Surveys of the 
lands were made without delay and within about a year titles had 
been acquired by the State. Then the State Engineer proceeded 
to make studies and preliminary plans, but further money has not 
been forthcoming and there the matter has rested, except that 
each year State Engineer Williams has reminded the Legislature that 
in effect the State has pledged itself to the construction of these 
four terminals and the time was at hand for the fulfillment of that 
pledge. But in the disturbed financial conditions and in the busi- 
ness depression throughout both the state and the nation subsequent 
to the World war there may be found ample reason for failure 

202 History of the Barge Canal 

to appropriate moneys for this and all other projects which are 
not absolutely essential. Petitions have been received for terminals 
at three other Hudson river cities, Beacon, Hudson and Rensselaer, 
and preliminary studies have been made for the sites of such 
terminals. Mr. Williams has recommended that the Legislature 
include these places also in whatever appropriations are made for 
terminals along the Hudson. 

There has been a strong organization, it should be added, work- 
ing for these river terminals. This is known as the Hudson Valley 
Federation and it comprises an aggregation of allied commercial 
organizations from Troy to Yonkers, numbering ten thousand in 
their membership. This federation had been back of the 1918 legis- 
lation. At first $950,000 had been asked for, a sum supposedly suffi- 
cient for both acquiring the sites and constructing the four terminals. 
At a hearing before the legislative reference committee it was 
suggested that, because of war exigencies and other demands for 
State funds, the amount be cut to $160,000, of which ten thousand 
should be for surveys and plans and the remainder for securing 
the sites. This was agreed to and the measure was passed. In 
1919 a bill appropriating $350,000 to begin construction went 
through the Legislature but was vetoed by the Governor on the 
ground that it should be provided for by bond issue. But this 
procedure was the very thing the advocates of the project had tried 
to avoid, having kept even their original request below the million- 
dollar constitutional limitation. 

When the Terminal Commission made its report it included 
among its list of recommendations one that a commission composed 
of representatives of leading commercial organizations of the state 
be appointed to investigate certain conditions, one of them being 
the relations between elevators, fixed and floating, and the rail and 
water carriers. Such a commission has not been appointed, but the 
end in view has been attained in another way. 

The Terminal Commission had not included the subject of eleva- 
tors among its investigations because, as it reported, there had 
not been time to study properly this phase of the terminal question. 
But those who have had to do with the building of our canal 
terminals came to see, and as time passed the conviction grew 
stronger, that one of the most pressing needs of the day was that 
of grain-handling facilities, and also that eventually the State must 
include elevators in its waterway scheme if the canals were to get 
anything like their proportionate share of what should be, in the 
nature of things, their chief article of freight. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 203 

The logical points for transferring grain cargoes carried by 
canal were Buffalo and New York. Buffalo was supplied with sev- 
eral elevators, although canal boatmen found difficulty in securing 
the privilege of using them, but New York had almost no elevator 
facilities, virtually none available for canal use. The greatest need 
for a State-controlled elevator, therefore, was in New York harbor 
and in choosing the locations for terminals in the metropolis one 
very fortunate selection for this purpose had been made. But at 
the time of selecting this site the question of elevators had not 
come prominently to the fore and so it was not the controlling 
factor in the choice. At Gowanus bay a terminal has been built 
which is especially designed to serve as the chief point of contact 
between ocean and canal traffic. Here originally was a considerable 
area of low land which might be reclaimed and here also a depth 
sufficient for sea-going vessels had to be dredged. The cheapest 
way of disposing of the spoil was to pump it behind a bulkhead wall 
and thus the State Engineer turned expediency to greatest account 
and paved the way for what he hoped would follow. What has 
followed has been the utilization of this favorable site for a large 
elevator, but there is still ample room on this made upland for the 
purposes which the Terminal Commission had in mind for this 
place — extensive warehouses and a railroad classification yard. 

From time to time the need of a canal elevator at New York was 
given public utterance in press or speech but never very seriously 
until soon after the entrance of the United States into the World 
war. Then the attention of Federal officials was called to the 
availability of the Gowanus bay terminal as the site for an elevator 
to be used in shipping overseas to our own expeditionary forces 
and to our allies the millions of bushels of grain which it seemed 
probable our Government would be called upon to send. More- 
over, the State offered so to construct the pier then in process of 
building that, without interfering with its usefulness for general 
cargo-handling, it could also serve as a part of a 1 0,000, ooo^bushel 
elevator, such a structure being easily possible on the site, should 
the United States decide to build it. This suggestion came to 
naught, however. The United States had not determined to under- 
take the project by the time hostilities ceased. 

Meantiteie, of course, no strong efforts were made to induce the 
State to move in this matter, but the subject was occasionally 
brought to pufclic attention. This was done through press articles, 
at waterway conventions or by public officials. In his report to 
the Legislature of 1919, State Engineer Williams said that, if the 

204 History of the Barge Canal 

canal were to take a leading ipart in the carrying of grain, an 
elevator suitable to canal needs must be erected in New York 
harbor. He reminded the members that neither the Barge canal 
law nor the terminal law made any provision for elevators and 
that it was incumbent upon them to determine the State's policy 
in this respect, since private enterprise could scarcely be expected 
to act in view of the uncertainty of the State's position. He added 
that the State was already in possession of an area large ertough 
for any reasonable elevator development and that a pier then being 
constructed at this locality had been planned to accommodate the 
grain-carrying portions of an elevator system without the strength- 
ening of its foundations. 

During the 1920 legislative session this matter came to a head. 
First Governor Smith in his annual message at the opening of the 
session made a strong appeal for three canal elevators — at Buffalo, 
Oswego and New York. This was followed by yet stronger appeals 
from State Engineer Williams and Suiperintendent of Public Works 
Walsh in their annual reports to the same Legislature. The 
result of these recommendations, reinforced by the aggressive sup- 
port of canal advocates, was the passage of an act (chapter 698, 
Laws of 1920) authorizing the construction of grain elevators at 
Gowanus bay and Oswego and making appropriation for beginning 
the work. 

As we have seen, the elevator idea had been of gradual growth, 
extending through many years, and evidently the propitious time 
for its consummation was now at hand, but doubtless a large factor 
in bringing the matter to a successful issue at this time may be 
found in the fact that the men who were then Governor and 
Superintendent of Public Works were from New York city, where 
the need of elevators was felt most keenly, and the further fact 
that both had been actively engaged in the transportation business, 
the Superintendent having had a Ufelong experience in water 
carriage, chiefly on the State canals. 

We can understand best the needs w'hich wrought this favorable 
legislation by learning what the three State officials said in their 
appeals. In 1880, said one of them, the New York canals carried 
more than thirty milUon bushels of wheat from Buffalo and ten 
thousand or more boats were engaged in doing this. In 1919 only 
half a million bushels were transported by canal and less than four 
hundred barges were employed. This was not because grain no 
longer came to Buffalo; far from it. Upwards of a hundred 
million bushels or more of wheat were received there every year 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 205 

and at the close of navigation it happened that twenty times as much 
grain was found lying in Buffalo harbor awaiting shipment as the 
canal had carried during its whole season. The State had made 
liberal and splendid provision at its terminals for handling most 
other commodities, but no facilities for the grain traffic had been 
furnished, and this trafific normally should constitute fifty or sixty 
per cent of all east-b.ound tonnage. In the restoration of the grain 
trafific to the canal lay the chief hope of interesting capital to invest 
in transportation lines and thus to bring about any large develop- 
ment of commerce on the new waterway. Carriers must have 
reasonaible assurance of obtaining east-bound cargoes at all times 
and .only canal elevator facilities for the predbminant east-bound 
commodity, grain, could give that assurance. Lacking the induce- 
ment to build up a strong transportation scheme, little hope existed 
that the new canal would justify its cost or would function in the 
interest of the great majority. 

Grain is a product admirably suited to carriage by water and the 
supply available for the Barge canal was unKmited so far as the 
capacity of the canal was concerned. Moreover, other carrying 
agencies were overburdened and were greatly in need of just such 
relief as the canal could give. The grain-producing area naturally 
tributary to the Barge canal through the Great Lakes was enor- 
mous. The vast grain belt lying around and to the west of the 
Lakes covered a million and a quarter square miles and produced 
annually five billion bushels of grain. For the welfare of the 
world as well as for the benefit of the producers it was highly 
important that the cost of shipping this grain should be as low 
as possible. Advocates of the Barge canal afiSrmed that no .other 
route, rail or water, could compete with the New York waterway 
in this traffic if proper equipment were supplied. It was to be 
noted ailso that the thirty million people who lived in the territory 
producing this grain would require for return cargoes the products 
of the world and thus they would make New York city their port of 
export and import. In this way the boats needful for commodities 
other than grain and also for west-bound trade would be secured. 

The conditions under which it was then necessary to handle any 
grain reaching New York by water were intolerable. For many 
years there had been passing through that harbor half the foreign 
and domestic commerce of the whole United States and yet there 
existed but five or six grain elevators and only two were situated 
so that canal boats could reach them. Both of these were owned 
by railroads and there was not even a shadow of a chance 

206 History of the Barge Canal 

that canal boats would be allowed to use them. As a result of this 
state of affairs barges laden with grain were obliged to await the 
arrival of the ships to which their cargoes were to be transferred. 
This might be one week or two or three or sometimes even longer. 
During this delay demurrage charges were mounting, the earning 
power of the barge was being lost and the cost of shipping grain 
by canal was rising so high as to be prohibitive. The number of 
boats on the canal was notoriously inadequate for the tonnage the 
waterway should handle, but no matter how many barges might be 
in service or how much grain should be available for shipment the 
continuation of such conditions in New York harbor could result 
only in wholly wiping out the canal grain business and with it 
would go the very foundations of canal traffic. Moreover, the 
useless tying up of boats which might otherwise be helping to build 
up canal trade was a plight so ruinous that the State for its .own 
good should seek a remedy with the utmost speed. 

Aside from the export grain traffic there was another feature to 
be considered. Gjnsiderable quantities of Argentine flaxseed were 
being imported through New York; also some corn. The future 
might see a reversal of past and existing practices, for it was 
quite within the possible that America with its rapidly increasing 
population might cease to export cereals and be forced to look to 
South America and central Europe for its supply. In such an 
event the existence of elevators at New York, to attract this com- 
merce for canal movement, would be an invaluable asset. 

An elevator was needed at Oswego because of Canadian activities 
to secure the grain-carrying trade. Excellent elevators had been 
installed at Montreal and in 1918 that port had handled approxi- 
mately twenty-five per cent of the total wheat exports of the prin- 
cipal Gulf and Atlantic ports. In 1880 it had exported only seven 
per cent. Of the 168,000,000 bushels of Canadian wheat shipped 
from the head of the Lakes in 1915 over 100,000,000 bushels had 
gone to Buffalo and only 23,000,000 bushels to Port Colbume, 
the western terminus of the Welland canal. Canada was now 
enlarging this canal so as to accommodate lake vessels of twenty- 
five feet draft. It was expected that by this means considerable 
grain would be diverted from Buffalo, the lake boats passing into 
Lake Ontario and going to Kingston or on down the St. Lawrence 
to Prescott, the two Canadian ports. Prescott is only 119 miles 
from Montreal, the present head of ocean navigation. It was 
imperative, therefore, that New York should provide a competitive 
port on Lake Ontario and the logical site for that port was Oswego. 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 207 

Although the distance from Oswego to New York was greater than 
from Kingston or Prescott to Montreal, Oswego had a more than 
compensating advantage to offer in the form of a return cargo, a 
thing that neither of the Canadian ports could furnish, at least in 
any adequate volume. Coal was a principal article of return cargo 
at Buffalo and other Lake Erie ports and the coal transshipping 
trestles maintained at Oswego by three railroads made possible a 
like traffic there. It was contended that the State would be negli- 
gent in failing to foresee the impending diversion of grain at 
Buffalo and in not providing at Oswego facilities which would 
attract that grain after it had entered Lake Ontario. Evidence of 
the soundness of the reasoning was found in the reported plans 
of a railroad company to deepen a harbor, erect a coal trestle and 
construct a grain elevator at a point a few miles west of Oswego. 
Oswego was about two hundred miles nearer New York than 
Buffalo. It was estimated that grain could be sent by way of 
Lake Ontario and the Barge canal through Oswego c1ieap>er than 
by transferring at Buffalo and following the canal through its full 
length across the state. This was another argument for an elevator 
at Oswego. 

At Buflfalo the problem did not involve an actual lack of elevat- 
ors, as at New York, but there seemed to be operating some cause 
which was working against the canal grain traffic. There were 
twenty-three elevators at Buffalo. Their storage capacity was 
28,250,000 bushels and they were capable of putting 1,871,000 
bushels into canal barges in a period of ten hours. But despite all 
this splendid equipment and although Buffalo was constantly in- 
creasing in importance as a grain port, the canal traffic in grain 
from Buffalo was steadily decreasing year by year. Whether this 
inimical agency was antagonism, discriminations adverse to canal 
traffic or excessive charges, was not entirely clear. It was generally 
understood that some if not all of the elevators were dominated by 
railroad influence. In any case the obvious remedy was the 
acquisition of an elevator by the State, through either purchase or 
construction, and its operation exclusively in the interest of canal 
grain traffic. The elevators at Montreal, owned and operated by 
the municipality, had been a potent factor in attracting grain com- 
merce to that port, and with the completion of the Welland canal 
enlargement this attraction would be still greater. Grain is some- 
what peculiar in that more tfian any other commodity it follows 
the route offering the cheapest transportation. The variation of a 
fraction of a cent a busbel turns its movement to or from any 

208 History of the Barge Canal 

route. If all that debarred the grain traffic from the canal was 
the difference of a fraction of a cent each bushel must absorb in 
charges, then surely tibe State was justified in providing the means 
whereby this equalization of costs with competitive routes could 
be accomplished. It was believed that a State-operated elevator 
might perform its service at a cost to produce a differential that 
would attract the grain commerce and still be able to meet the 
interest and maintenance charges and also earn a profit which in 
time would repay the initial investment. It was not the intent to 
make the use of State elevators free, like the canal channel, but 
rather to make them self-sustaining. 

Thus the State officials had argued the case of canal grain eleva- 
tors and the response of the Legislature was an act which author- 
ized two of the three recommended. The law of 1920 ordered the 
erection of an elevator at Gowanus bay at a cost not to exceed 
$2,500,000 and appropriated $550,000 to begin the work. It also 
provided $225,000 to commence an elevator at Oswego, which was 
to cost not over $1,000,000. 

State Engineer Williams at once proceeded to prepare plans and 
soon contracts were awarded for constructing the foundations for 
both elevators. In 1921 an act (chapter 176) appropriated 
$1,950,000 for the Gowanus bay structure, completing the sum 
fixed in the authorizing law, but no additional funds were pro- 
vided for Oswego. A spirit of economy pervaded the state in 
192 1, as in fact it did the whole country, and the Oswego elevator 
was one of the things to fall by the wayside. The building of the 
Gowanus bay elevator has been advancing to an early completion, 
but that at Oswego must await additional moneys. 

It may be said parenthetically that the appropriation in 192 1 for 
the Gowanus bay elevator is one of the only two instances we 
recall of more than a million dollars being allotted to any Barge 
canal improvement aside from that authorized by bond issue. The 
State Constitution prohibits the creation of a State debt of more 
than a million dollars except by referendum vote, but it does not 
prevent an appropriation of more than a million dollars from avail- 
able moneys. The great bulk of the canal improvement, however, 
has been paid for by the sale of bonds and only occasionally has 
anything more or less directly coimected with the canal been 
financed by special appropriation. The other instance of more 
than a million dollars being voted by the Legislature for the 
Barge canal occurred in 191 5, when $3,654,000 was appropriated to 
complete contracts previously awarded, but this sum was subse- 

5-5 E 

B 1j ^ ■ 

5 y ^^ ^ 

-^■" S n nj 
= d, '^ ij c 

■£ -lif c 1:: 

Terminal Commission and Terminals 209 

quently refunded to the State treasury, being taken out of the 
bond issue approved by the j)eople later in the same year. Indirectly 
connected with Barge canal construction there has been one other 
appropriation of more than a million dollars. For acquiring the 
right of way necessary for improving the Harlem river the Legis- 
lature of 1922 appropriated $1,500,000. 

The capacity of the elevator at Gowanus bay is substantially 
2,000,000 bushels. If the grain traffic on the canal should grow to 
the volume which experts say is its rightful share, then doubtless 
greater elevator capacity will be required, but for the present the 
needs are supplied. Modern practice in elevator construction, how- 
ever, allows for expansion within reasonable limits by building stor- 
age bins in such form that additional units may be added at any 
time. The storage capacity at Gowanus is provided by 54 circular 
reinforced concrete bins, each 20 feet in diameter and 95 feet high, 
together with interstitial bins, and whenever occasion demands as 
many extra bins may be added as are needed. A modern grain 
elevator is the result lof many years of experience and involves 
numberless details. The one at Gowanus bay has the usual equip- 
ments for conveying, weighing, cleaning and drying. There are 
marine towers for unloading and a conveyor system extending out 
upon the 1,200-foot pier for loading ocean steamers. Upon a new 
shorter pier it is planned to install unloaders, possibly of the 
pneumatic type, for handling flaxseed or other imported grain. 

At Oswego, when construction is undertaken, there will prob- 
c^bly be erected 21 bins and their storage capacity will be about 
775,000 bushels. Apparatus for unloading lake boats, for loading 
into canal boats and cars, and for conveying, cleaning, drying and 
weighing will also be provided. 

In our early discussion of the terminal question we saw that in 
the shipment of general merchandise over the length of the Great 
Lakes, virtually a thousand miles, the actual carriage would be 
about one-third and the terminal charge two-thirds of the cost; 
also that efficient equipment for handling ore, coal and grain had 
halved the expense of transshipping these commodities. These 
three articles are among the largest and most important items of 
our national commerce and the movement of grain especially 
affects almost everybody in the land. It is only through much 
study and experimentation that successful handling devices have 
been perfected, but the State is reaping now the benefit of all this 
experience and is passing it on to the people through the erection 
of its grain elevators and also through the scientifically-equipped 
terminals for the handling of all kinds of commerce. 


Accounts of the progress of construction work year by year and also of the 
new work being put under contract appear in chronological sequence in 
the chapter but are not listed in this outline. The other chief items are 
the following: First Contracts Awarded and Construction Begun — 
Study of Rome Level Water-Supply — Studies of Rome Routes — 
Advisory Engineer for Superintendent — ■ Criticisms by Superintendent — 
Barge Canal Bulletin Begun, igo8 — Federal Aid for Termini and Hud- 
son Canalization Asked — Survey and Assumption of Hudson River by 
Government — Cayuga and Seneca Branch and Terminals Added — Leaks 
Occasioned by New Work — Oswego Partly Closed, 1909 and 1910 — 
Rival Projects in 1910 — Mohawk River Contracts — Tests of Models 
of Proposed Medina Arch — First Locks and First New Sections Used, 
1910 — Canal Affairs Reviewed in 1910 at Request of Governor — State- 
ment Concerning Railroad Crossings — Government Adoption of Hud- 
son above Troy Questioned — New Plans for Lock and Dam at Scotia — 
Break in Bushnell's Basin in 1911 — Terminals Begun — Serious Break 
at Irondequoit Creek — Publicity of 1912 — Flood of 1913 — Beginning 
of Navigation Aids — Oswego Closed for Sixth Year- — Lyons Routes — 
Court Decision on Railroad Crossings — Exhaustion of Appropriation — 
Attempted Legislative Investigation — State Engineer's Reply — Full 
Discussion of Exhaustion and Reasons for It — New Referendum for 
Funds — Referendum Explained — Eastern Section of Erie Opened with 
Ceremony, 1915 — Extended Review of Railroad Crossing Problem — 
Other Sections Opened, 1916 — Lake Navigation Aids Studied — Possible 
Deficiency of Cayuga and Seneca Fund Reported — Rochester Work 
Begun — Its General Plan — Former Land Acquisitions Delaying N. Y. 
City Terminals — Canal Open, Ocean to Lake Ontario, 1917 — First 
Warehouse and Machinery Contracts Let — Intense Activity in 1917 — 
Tonawanda Situation — Rome Centennial Celebration — Cayuga and 
Seneca Fund Increased — Whole Canal Open, 1918 — More Terminal 
Funds Needed — Pier 6 Opened with Ceremony, 1919 — Terminal Fund 
Increased and Elevators Added — New System of Buoy Patrol — State- 
ments of Terminal Work Accomplished — Elevators Begun — Governor 
Miller's Interest in Canal. 

IN OUR Study of the Barge canal we have not as yet said 
much about the actual work of construction, but rather 
have been considering chiefiy questions of policy and matters 
of procedure. Reverting now to the beginning of the year 1905 
we recall that, because certain contractors, upon request, had sub- 
mitted both lump sum and itemized proposals on the first contracts 


Canal and Terminal Construction 2 1 1 

and the legality of this action was in question, Superintendent of 
Public Works Boyd had refrained from awarding these contracts 
and had left the disposal of the whole subject to his successor. 
Early in January the new Superintendent, N. V. V. Franchot, 
asked Attorney-General Mayer to render an opinion on the ques- 
tion. This opinion held that the Barge canal law rather than the 
general canal law governed the methods of asking for proposals 
and awarding contracts and that the Barge canal statute invested 
the Superintendent with large discretion, and as the contractors had 
acted in conformity with the request in his advertisement for pro- 
posals the bidding was lawful; also that it was the duty of the 
Superintendent alone to determine which was the lowest bid and 
to act in accordance with his best judgment for the interests of 
the State. Of the six contracts for which tenders were asked 
at the first opening lump sum proposals were received on only 
three and in each case itemized bids were also received which on 
their face were lower than the lump sum bids. The Superin- 
tendent, therefore, awarded the six contracts, each to the con- 
tractor whose bid was lowest on that particular contract. The 
experiment of asking for lump sum proposals ended with this 
first letting. Thereafter throughout the whole course of con- 
struction itemized bids have prevailed to the exclusion of any 
other method. 

By April and early May, 1905, all of these six contracts had been 
signed and soon afterward the work of construction was begun. 
The first actual contract work was performed at Fort Miller, on 
the Champlain canal, on April 24, 1905 ; the first work on the Erie 
canal was done at Waterford on June 7, 1905. During the early 
months of these first contracts there was no remarkable showing 
in the amount of construction work accomplished. The contracts 
were all large, some of them quite large, and time was needed to 
assemble the necessary plants, most of the dredges, scows, exca- 
vating apparatus and other large machines having to be built on 
the sites of the work. 

While it seemed at the time that good progress was being made 
during the early years of construction, in the light of later accom- 
plishment such progress appears very slow. But this was only 
what naturally might be expected. In large undertakings of this 
character, for which carefully-wrought plans and extended prepa- 
rations have to be made, it usually takes several years to get the 
work well under way. For a while after that it goes with a rush 
and later, as the end approaches and less and less remains to be 

212 HistoTy of the Barge Canal 

done, there is a gradual slowing down. Precisely the same law 
seems to hold as applies to moving bodies. At first force is 
required to overcome the interia and then the nxomentum carries 
the body until another force stops it, and the larger the body the 
greater the force needed to start it and also the greater the momen- 
tum that keeps it going. 

In the first two years of work, 1905 and 1906, the apparent 
result was very small, less than a million dollars being paid for 
construction. The next two years showed a large increase and the 
two after that an increase still larger by many times. But these 
were all years of planning on the part of the State and of prepa- 
ration as well as accomplishment on the part of the contractors. 
Indeed the State Engineer was severely criticised for not complet- 
ing all plans for all parts of the enterprise before any construction 
whatsoever was begun. But probably he would have been more 
severely criticised for doing other than he did. 

After these six years there came four peak years in construc- 
tion. During these four years more than fifty million dollars 
worth of work was done, but besides the momentum acquired from 
previous years there were two new additions to the project — the. 
Cayuga and Seneca canal and the terminals — to augment the 
total of accomplishment for the period. No year since these four 
has witnessed so large an amount of work done, but as long as 
there remained structures or cana! to build each year's record was 
large and the aggregate has been very large. 

In the present account of constructing canal and terminals it 
cannot be hoped to go into details very minutely. Nor indeed 
does such a course seem necessary. These details are available, 
however, for him who must have them. Enough of the records 
have been published in State documents to furnish all the informa- 
tion the ordinary investigator desires. The annual reports of both 
the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public W^orks have 
told year by year what progress was being made and what portions 
of the canal had been built. The account in the State Engineer's 
report has taken up each contract quite at length and told in 
detail just what had been done and what it had cost. The Barge 
Canal Bulletin was issued monthly during most of the period of 
construction and its record went into still more circumstantial 
detail. It published month by month the progress made in pre- 
paring plans, also the facts in regard to approval of plans, adver- 
tising for bids, the itemized bids received and the award of con- 
tracts, and then it described the work done each month on each 

Canal and Terminal Construction 2 1 3 

contract till all was finished or the contract was terminated for 
some cause. The Bulletin account included also a record of the 
money value of all work planned, contracted for and done. The 
Comptroller told in an annual report of the money being spent on 
the project. The two hoards which have had to do with the Barge 
canal — the Canal Board and the Advisory Board of Consulting 
Engineers — each published the minutes of its several meetings 
and at the end of each year these were bound in an annual volume. 
Also other State officials have had a part in Barge canal construc- 
tion and their reports add to the sum of available information. 
Other records, even to the most minute detail, preserved mainly in 
the archives of the State Engineer's office, may upon occasion be 
consulted by those who must carry their search beyond these pub- 
lished accounts. With all of this wealth of information so easily 
accessible it seems best to devote the text of the present volume to 
a consideration of subjects of a somewhat general import and to 
limit the details of specific work performed to an appended table 
of contracts. 

The most important events in canal history for the first three or 
four years of the period of construction have already been dis- 
cussed in the chapter on early policies and methods. The actual 
work of building the canal was proceeding, not so rapidly as in 
subsequent years, but still proceeding, and while there were as 
many perplexing problems of construction for the engineers to 
solve as is the usual lot in large undertakings, they were not of 
sufficient rr^oment to leave any very lasting impress on the records. 

Perhaps the most important of the things not already mentioned 
was a thorough investigation of the water-supply available for the 
Rome summit level of the new canal. This study was made in 
1905 under State Engineer Van Alstyne by WilHam B. Landreth, 
Resident Engineer, and it was reviewed by Emil Kuichling, the 
consulting engineer who had been employed to make the water- 
supply investigations during the preliminary survey of 1900. This 
study had a most important bearing on some of the plans which 
were about to be made, but it need not now concern us except to 
call our attention to the fact that such studies, of a purely technical 
character, were constantly being carried on in the work of design- 
ing the numberless structures and portions of channel throughout 
all the years of canal construction. In the days of the original 
canal, engineering was a new and not a very precise science and 
rule-of-thumb methods largely prevailed. The early engineers used 
good judgment, however, and were spared grievous failures. But 

214 HistoTji of the Barge Canal 

now engineering has so advanced that calculations are made for 
sizes, weight and strength down to the last minute detail and what- 
ever may influence the stability as well as the usefulness of a com- 
pleted structure is carefully considered in making the design. 
Engineering has become also a profession of many precedents and 
for successful designing the^e is needed a broad knowledge of what 
others have done in a like situation, or an originality which is so 
keen in foresight as not to make fatal mistakes. 

In 1906 several important pieces of work were put under con- 
tract. Among them were the first of the movable dams of bridge 
tyjje on the Mohawk river and the locks beside them, also the 
northern half ,of the Champlain canal, enibracing the portion be- 
tween the Hudson river channel at Fort Edward and Lake Qiam- 
plain at Whitehall, the remainder of the land line section between 
the Hudson and Mohawk rivers at the eastern end of the Erie 
canal, a stretch near the western end of the Erie and another in 
the vicinity of Little Falls, and the portion of the Oswego canal 
extending through Fulton. 

The record ,of contracts awarded in 1907 is not very large, al- 
though one having a length of nearly forty-four miles was included. 
This embraced the line in Oneida and Seneca rivers west from 
Oneida lake and extending to Mosquito Point. Besides this long 
stretch of channel there was a short section at the north end of 
the Osw€go canal, which included the novel siphon lock at Oswego, 
and the fifteen miles at the lower end of Mohawk river canalization, 
containing the massive dams at Crescent and Vischer Ferry. 

The beginning of the year 1907 marked the coming of a new 
incumbent, Frederick Skene, to the office of State Engineer. There 
have been several such occasions in the history of the Barge canal 
and it will be noticed that whenever a break of this character has 
occurred in the continuity of the engineering organization it has 
been reflected in various ways, generally in a temporary slowing 
down in the work of preparing plans or carrying on construction. 
Whenever in Barge canal construction there has been a change of 
men in the State Engineer's office it has happened that it has been 
a change also in the political complexion of the inctmibent. 

Among the studies which occupied the engineers in 1907 there 
api)ear several of considerable importance. One had to do with the 
canal alignment at Rome. Plans had been well advanced on what 
was called the north route, which would carry the channel through 
the city, making necessary some objectionable bridge approaches 
and interfering with business interests to quite an extent The 

Canal and Terminal Construction 215 

citizens of Rom* objected and plans were halted till a decision 
could be reached. Meanwhile investigations for a better line were 
being made. The solution of this iproblem was not easy. If the 
route were thrown farther south, then there were involved on the 
one hand some very costly railroad crossings or on the other 
hand an entire change of railroad location for a long distance, this 
change including a new station for the city and being also very 
costly. Several years were spent on this problem before it was 
finally solved. 

It is interesting to notice how the canal alignment has shifted 
back and forth in Rome and how at each change there has been 
difficulty in pleasing the inhabitants. Rome shared in the first 
artificial waterway improvement in the state. The Western Inland 
Lock Navigation Company, chartered in 1792, built as one of its 
undertakings a canal along the portage between the Mohawk river 
and Wood creek. This channel was near to the line just mentioned, 
that called the north route. When the State c;onstructed the orig- 
inal Erie canal the location was changed to the south, much to the 
displeasure of the citizens. During the first enlargement of the 
Erie, that of deepening to seven feet, the canal came back north to 
the first location and again there was dissatisfaction. When it was 
proposed to build the Barge canal along the northern route the 
people wanted the line changed again. To anticipate the final 
decision it may be said that the new waterway has now been built 
much farther south than even the original Erie canal. 

Among the other studies of this year was one on the Rochester- 
Lockport level, of which mention was made in a former chapter; 
also one to determine a type of dam and an arrangement of spill- 
ways to lessen rather than to aggravate flood conditions in the 
Genesee river at Rochester, and another to find a kind of dam for 
the Oswego river at Phoenix which wotild prevent flood damages in 
Onondaga lake and at Syracuse. There was a study too of the 
harbor problem at Syracuse and this proved a question about which 
there were such divergent ideas that several years passed before a 
final decision was reached. 

In 1907 the Superintendent of Public Works in his annual report 
complained that the new construction was making it very difficult 
to keep the canals open during the navigation season. This was 
especially true with regard to the Oswego canal and in his report 
a year later he recommended that the Legislature make provision 
for closing this branch during the season of 1909. It will appear 

216 History of the Barge Canal 

later how during six seasons, beginning with 1909, portions of this 
canal were closed. 

In 1907 the SuE>erintend€nt was permitted by legislative author- 
ity to appoint an advisory engineer in his department. While the 
Barge canal law provided for all engineering work to be done by 
the State Engineer, it laid certain duties on the Superintendent 
which in the judgment of Mr. Stevens, the incumbent at that time, 
required the assistance of one competent to advise concerning engi- 
neering matters. The engineer appointed was Joseph Ripley, a man 
who had had charge imder the Federal government of construction 
on the Sault Ste. Marie canal and who had but recently he'd very 
important positions on the Panama canal, having been a member of 
the board of consulting engineers, having had charge of designir^ 
the locks, dams and regulating works, and having been assistant 
chief engineer. It will be seen that later Mr. Ripley held other 
important positions connected with the Barge canal. 

A rather interesting discussion is found in the 1907 annual report 
of Superintendent Stevens. It is a criticism of the way the work 
of construction had 'been carried on by the State Engineer. The 
Sui>erintendent based his contention on an interpretation of section 
six of the Barge canal law, holding that this section directed the 
State Engineer to make plans for the whole project before any 
contract whatever should be awarded. He argued that a policy 
after this order not only would carry out the intent of the law 
but also would have been of the make-haste-slowh- variety, which 
would accomplish more in the end, and moreover that it would 
have been in better accord with good business principles. He com- 
plained of the slow progress being made and intimated that it was 
due to the adoption of this wrong policy. From this argument he 
passed easily to a reopening of the main issue in the whole State 
canal problem — whether a ship canal would not be preferable to a 
barge canal — and before he finished he recommended that the 
Legislature should memorialize Congress to join with New York 
in making that portion of the Barge canal which extends from the 
Hudson river to Lake Ontario, by way of the Mohawk river, 
Oneida lake and the Oswego river, a ship canal of the type contem- 
plated in the report of the Deep Waterways Board of Engineers 
in 11900 and also that such pressure should be brought to bear on 
Congress as to accomplish the suggested plan. 

It is somewhat difificult to follow the logic of Mr. Stevens' argu- 
ment. Knowing how great an amount of designing work the engi- 

Canal and Terminal Construction 2 1 7 

neers have found necessary throughout the larger part of the con- 
struction period, it does not readily appear that the time required 
for 'building the canal would have been shortened materially by 
delaying construction till all plans were ready. His thought evi- 
dently was that the purpose of the law as he interpreted it was to 
guard against building the canal in such manner as to overrun the 
appropriation. We have seen already that the State Engineer, be- 
cause of charges during the canal campaign that the estimates were 
unreliable, had perceived the necessity of ascertaining as accurately 
as possible the whole probable cost. By his selection of a wide 
variety of .work for the first contracts, thus making them in effect 
test contracts, he had demonstrated with what appeared to be rea- 
sonable certainty that the entire canal could be finished within the 
appropriation. In a former chapter it was seen also with what care 
and thoroughness the State Engineer had proceeded during the 
first years of planning. His policy indeed had virtually been to 
make haste slowly. It may be said in passing that Mr. Stevens' 
interpretation of the law was deemed untenable by legal authority. 
The Superintendent's suggestion that the whole work should have 
been put into ten contracts and that this arrangement would have 
resulted in less contract machinery and at the same time would 
have hastened contract work seems rather absurd. 

The whole argument shows a lack of an appreciative understand- 
ing of the engineering features of the project, but on the other 
hand it must be remembered that Mr. Stevens was a remarkably 
astute and successful business man. It cannot be denied, however, 
that in the attitude of Mr. Stevens and also in that of others who 
have held the office of Superintendent during Barge canal con- 
struction there may be seen a querulousness which seems to arise 
from resentment at the inactive position in which they found them- 
selves under the Barge canal law, in evident forgetfulness that it 
was due to the evils of dual responsibility under the nine-million 
project that they had thus been shorn of power. 

Mr. Stevens' advocacy of the ship canal plan illustrates the per- 
sistence of this idea. Throughout the whole period of the Barge 
canal and in all parts of the state many persons have continually 
been met who would shrug their shoulders whenever the canal was 
mentioned and say that perhaps it is all right but it ought to have 
been made large enough for ocean-going ships to reach the Great 
Lakes and moreover the Federal government should have built it. 

A year later Mr. Stevens again deprecated the lack of progress 
and suggested that the power given under the Barge canal act 

218 History of the Barge Canal 

should be invoked and the work be taken from certain contractors 
and put into the hands of the Superintendent. Occasionally in the 
course of constructing the canal this drastic remedy has been 
resorted to, but such measures have been reserved for extreme 
cases of failure on the part of the contractor and then not until 
no other way seemed open. 

In the years 1907 and 1908 we find the beginnings of several 
important canal affairs. Both the State Engineer and the Super- 
intendent of Public Works were recommending canal terminals, 
but these suggestions were limited to New York and Buffalo and 
the terminal idea of broad scope did not appear until later. 

In January, 1908, State Engineer Skene adopted a policy that 
was rather wide-reaching in its influence and which was continued 
by all of his successors. This was the issuing of a monthly publica- 
tion, the Barge Canal Bulletin, which ran from February, 1908, to 
January, 1919. Since this publication is discussed at some length 
in the chapter on advertising the canal, it need not at present have 
more than this brief mention. 

Mr. Skene also took a firm stand for the canalization of the 
Hudson river by the United States government. He joined forces 
with those who were advocating a 22-foot channel between the 
Barge canal and the ocean, this having been the time when the 
business organizations along the river formed the Hudson River 
Improvement Association in order to advance the interests of that 

Mr. Skene continued the attempt of his predecessor to induce 
the Federal authorities to assume responsibility for canalizing the 
Hudson north of Troy. He even went to the length of printing in 
attractive form the report of the study made under Mr. Van Al- 
styne on this subject and presenting it to Congress in the form of a 
memorial. This study we have already reviewed. He also urged 
the Legislature to request the National government to improve both 
Lake Champlain at the northern terminus of the Champlain canal 
at Whitehall and the Oswego river at the northern terminus of the 
Oswego canal at Oswego. It happens that Federal waters adjoin 
the four main termini of the Barge canal system, these lying at 
Water ford, Whitehall, Oswego and Tonawanda. If improvements 
were not made at these four points by the time the new canal 
should h€ completed, then boats of enlarged size would be confined 
to the canal itself and the value of the deepened channel would 
virtually be nullified as long as outlets of like dimensions were 
withheld. It can be seen then that the time was none too soon to 

Canal and Terminal Construction 219 

begin agitation for this Federal cooperation. The Niagara at Ton- 
awanda was already being improved under the United States engi- 
neers, but as we shall see, the other projects dragged along for 
years and finally the State had to step in and open a channel at one 
terminus in spite .of the fact that it was working in Federal waters 
and was doing what in fairness the Federal government should have 

Although with 1909 there came another change in the office of 
State Engineer, Frank M. Williams entering upon the duties, in 
the matter of the channel between Troy and Waterford the new 
incumbent continued along the same line as his predecessors. But 
the time was growing short and so we find him urging upon the 
Legislature all speed lest the Champlain branch be completed before 
the southern outlet should be ready. Early in 1909 Superintendent 
of Public Works Stevens had been instrumental in securing a 
Federal appropriation for a survey of the Hudson, which was to 
determine whether the United States should assume this enter- 
prise. It appeared probable that the engineers would report favor- 
ably and also Government .officials seemed disposed to grant the 
desired aid, the chairman of the House Rivers and Harbors Com- 
mittee having assured representatives from the state that he would 
do all he could to induce the United States to undertake the work 
and complete it in time for Barge canal traffic, but the prospect for 
immediate action was doulbtful and so Mr. Williams was urging 
haste. And this eft'ort was not in vain. The Congress in session 
in 1909-10 made an appropriation for the work and on July i, 
1910, as soon as the funds became available, the army engineers, 
under the direction of Col. William M. Black, began work on the 
plans for a lock and dam at Troy. Credit for securing this aid 
from the Government belongs to several people and also to a num- 
ber of organizations. Chief among them are the State officials and 
the chambers of commerce of Albany and Troy. 

Am,ong the pieces of work put under contract in 1908 were some 
that covered stretches of canal extending for twenty-two miles be- 
tween Eagle Harbor and Lockport and for sixteen miles between 
South Greece and the Monroe-Orleans county line; also a section 
of canal at Little Falls, including the lock of highest lift ever 
undertaken up to that time, and another section at Baldwinsville, 
together with the dam in the Oneida river at Caughdenoy. In addi- 
tion contracts were awarded for building three more locks and 
movable dams of bridge type in the Mohawk and for constructing 
the great reservoir on the headwaters of the Mohawk at Delta. 

220 History of the Barge Canal 

For several reasons the year 1909 is memorable in Barge canal 
history. The obtaining of Federal assistance in the Hudson is one 
reason. In this year also the Cayuga and Seneca branch was added 
to the enlarged system. A renewed and an aggressive agitation for 
this project began with the year and by means of a quick and in- 
tensive campaign legislative approval was secured during the cur- 
rent session and als.o popular authorization was achieved before 
the year had closed. But the outstanding reason for remembering 
1909 is the terminal investigation begun in this year. Almost on a 
parity with the canal question itself stands that of adequate termi- 
nals, and the time of its inception, therefore, becomes a mile-stone 
in canal progress. But it is not necessary n.ow to do more than 
mention either the new branch or the added terminals; each has 
already had its special chapter. Of the Hudson river scheme we 
shall hear again. 

Because of interference arising from new construction the Super- 
intendent of Public Works was having trouble in maintaining navi- 
gation on the canal, chiefly on the sections where the old and new 
alignments coincided. During the winter of 1908-09 more than 
forty culverts and other structiu-es on the stretch between Roch- 
ester and Lockport were uncovered for the purpose of reconstruc- 
tion or enlargement. Fearing that there would be leaks when the 
canal was refilled in the spring, the Superintendent set patrols, in- 
stalled a temporary telephone line and at critical points stored sup- 
plies for making repairs. These precautions were wisely planned. 
Even before the canal was full leaks began to show at several of 
the structures and at a dozen or more of these the trouble proved 
so serious that the levels had to be emptied and the structures 
reinforced with a concrete covering. This experience resulted in 
adopting new methods for doing work of this character; also in a 
closer cooperation between the Superintendent and the State Engi- 
neer, the latter instructing his resident engineers not to allow a con- 
tractor to disturb any old structure which was essential to naviga- 
tion until the Superintendent had been notified and had given his 
written permission. 

It will be recalled that the Superintendent had recommended that 
the Oswego canal be closed while reconstruction was going on, 
since the maintenance of navigation on this branch was particularly 
difficult. In response the Legislature authorized him to close about 
half of it, the part between Three River Point and lock No. 10 at 
Fulton, during the whole season of 1909, and the remaining portion, 
that from Fulton to Lake Ontario, until the middle of July. By a 

Canal and Terminal Construction 221 

law of ,1910 permission was given to keep the southern half dosed 
again for all of that year or to open any part of it from time to 
time as the Superintendent deemed best. 

Publicity was given to two rival canal projects at about this 
time. On June 10, 1909, a Federal board of engineers reported to 
Congress on a proposed 14-foot canalization of the Mississippi from 
St. Louis to the Gulf, a scheme known as the Lakes-to-Gulf 
project. This was estimated to cost $128,000,000 for construction 
and $6,000,000 annually for maintenance. The engineers reported 
the scheme as not desirable. A few months earlier a Canadian 
report was made on the Georgian Bay Ship Canal, a proposed 
22-foot channel between Georgian bay, an arm' of Lake Huron, and 
the St. Lawrence at Montreal, estimated to cost $100,000,000. 

The work put under contract in 1909 was large in amount and of 
much importance. It included about ninety-seven miles ,of channel 
in the eastern portion of the Erie canal. This embraced nearly all 
parts between the Hudson river and Oneida lake except the few 
stretches previously contracted for. In addition there were a sec- 
tion of five and a half miles near the Genesee river, another of 
four miles in the Hudson near Mechanicville, a small stretch at 
Phoenix and' tw,o locks in the Champlain canal. 

In the contracts let in 1909 there were four which redounded 
much to the honor of State Engineer Williams. These were the con- 
tracts for canalizing the Mohawk from Rexford to Little Falls, 
well known among contractors at the time as the original Contract 
No. 20. In one form or another this work had been unsuccessfully 
submitted to bidders several times, beginning with October, 1907. 
In December, 1908, it had been offered for the last time in its 
entirety of nearly fifty-nine miles. The lowest bid at that time 
was $4,913,168.25, which was more than ten per cent above the 
engineer's estimate and consequently could not be accepted without 
formal approval by both the Canal Board and the State Engineer, 
but such approval was withheld. Because of earlier failures to 
receive acceptalble bids the specifications under the offering of 
December, 1908, had provided for the acceptance of the finished 
work in eleven sections, the contractor thus not being required to 
maintain the whole length in a finished state until the entire con- 
tract should be completed. The plans were revised in 1909 by 
dividing the work into four parts. The aggregate of the four 
lowest bids on these parts was $4,690,546.90, a sum less than the 
1908 bid by nearly a quarter of a million dollars. The elimination 

222 History of the Barge Canal 

of the objectionable feature of accepting the work in eleven sections 
was perhaps of still more importance, since under the modified 
arrangement each contract had to be maintained in a completed 
state until it was accepted — a marked advantage for the State. 

A series of tests was carried ,on under State Engineer Williams 
in 1910 which was extremely important, but since the tests were 
of purely technical character little public comment was elicited. 
These tests were important to the engineer because they were in 
a field previously almost devoid of authoritative information, but 
they had a very practical purpose, their engineering value being 
entirely adventitious. They were of vital importance to the State 
because they were made in order to determine whether it was safe 
to build a certain proposed structure of somewhat remarkable 
design. In the event of failure of such structure the people of the 
state surely would have been aroused to the importance of tests 
which might have prevented so unfortunate an occurrence. Such 
was the real purpose of making these tests. 

The tests had to do with construction at Medina, where, if the 
canal should avoid an objectionable loop, it was necessary to cross a 
deep gorge. After careful consideration of various types of steel 
and concrete aqueducts and also of a high embankment, it was 
decided that a concrete arch of single span, carrying a reinforced 
concrete trunk, was to be preferred. The length of span, center to 
center, would be 290J4 feet; the clear span, 285 feet, five feet 
longer than any concrete arch structure theretofore attenjpted and 
by far the longest single span arch aqueduct ever planned and one 
which would have to carry loads much in excess of those ever im- 
posed on any similar long arch. The weight .of water to be carried 
by the single span was 12,400 tons, the total load, including weight 
of structure, 46,000 tons. The width of the aqueduct was to be 129 

By virtue of the length of span, the total width, the great load 
to be carried and the necessarily great cost, the proposed Medina 
aqueduct may properly be considered the most important piece of 
concrete arch construction ever planned up to that time. It was 
deemed both advisable and necessary, therefore, not only to de- 
velop the design with the greatest care along the lines of the most 
approved theory of arch construction, but also to make a series of 
tests on concrete prisms and arch models for the purpose of obtain- 
ing additional information concerning the behavior of concrete 
under certain conditions of stress. Moreover, from reputable 

Canal and Terminal Construction 223 

sources suggestions had been made that such an arch was in danger 
of failure through shearing on a vertical plane at or near the 
skew-back at a comparatively low resistance and long before the 
true compressive strength ,of concrete should be developed. 

This series of tests, however, which was continued until there 
could be no reasonable doubt of the results, did not corroborate 
the theory in this suggestion, but showed conclusively that the 
arch would sustain its load in true arch fashion and that there was 
no danger of failure from so-called shear. Reports of the results 
of these tests were published in the Barge Canal Bulletin and the 
State Engineer's annual report and were copied by the engineering 
press of the country. It may be added that although these tests 
removed all fear that the structure as designed was defective, the 
aqueduct was not built. Instead the new canal follows the objec- 
tionable loop of the old canal. The reason for this was the char- 
acter of the rock upon which the aqueduct must have been founded. 
It was a sandstone, known locally as " red horse," and doubt of its 
sustaining power caused the aqueduct plan to be abandoned. 

In 1910 the first of the Barge canal locks was used for passing 
boats. This was the l.ock at Baldwinsville and the time of its 
first use was May 9. In order to be used the walls, gates and valves 
had to be completed, but operating machinery was still lacking. To 
supply the deficiency the gates were swung by means of block and 
tackle and horse-power, and the valves were raised by chain hoists. 
The lock chamber filled smoothly and its operation was entirely 
satisfactory. But the use .of the lock at this time was not connected 
with regular canal traffic. The channel at Baldwinsville was so 
situated that it could not be used until adjoining long sections had 
been completed. The boats to pass the lock were parts of the 
contractor's construction fleet. About a month earlier the gates, 
valves and power culvert of the lock at Comstock, on the Chamf- 
plain branch, were operated, although no boat was present to be 
locked through. Traffic passed through this lock during the 1910 
season, but conditions were such that temporarily one level was 
being maintained on both sides of the structure and so it was not 
for the time fulfilling any of the functions of a lock. On May 28, 
1 910, another new lock was brought into use and this was the first 
one to serve really as a lock in regular canal traffic. Additional 
interest attached to this structure because it was the siphon lock 
at Oswego, the first siphon lock to be built in America and the 
largest lock of the siphon type ever to have been built. 

224 History/ of the Barge Canal 

With the opening of navigation in 1910 there came into use 
the first of such new sections of canal as were being built along 
new locations. This was the northern portion of the Champlain 
branch, from Fort Ann to the Lake Champlain terminus at White- 
hall. Work along this stretch (had n,ot been entirely completed, 
but it was so far advanced that the old canal between these limits 
could be abandoned and traffic could be turned into the new 

In 1910 the first of the Cayuga and Seneca contracts were 
awarded. These provided for dredging about seventeen miles of 
channel and for building the lock and dam at Cayuga. The number 
of contracts let during this year on the other canals was large, 
totalling more than a score, and the work covered by them included 
very nearly all parts of all three branches not already under con- 
tract. Almost all of the eastern half of the Erie canal was pre- 
viously under construction and a section between Rome and Oneida 
lake added in 1910 virtually completed the contracts for building 
that portion. The work under eight of the contracts let this year 
iay in the western half of the Erie and after awarding these not 
many miles of the whole Erie branch were still unprovided for. 
Much of the remaining portions of both the Champlain and Oswego 
canals was also included in the contracts of the year. In addition 
the first two of the contracts for installing electrical operating 
machinery were let and also a contract for the great storage reser- 
voir at Hinckley and another for the diverting channel to carry the 
waters from this reservoir to the point of need on the Rome summit 

With 191 1 there came another change in the State Engineer's 
office. Since the break in this instance was more marked than on 
former occasions, it is well to consider the general status of canal 
work at this time. This is given succinctly in the State Engineer's 
annual report for 191 o, which reads as follows: 

"At the end of 1910 about one-third of the work of construction 
on the whole canal is completed. There are under contract 422.2 
miles of canal (including the Cayuga and Seneca), besides con- 
tracts for various electrical installations, bridges, dams and other 
structures, two great storage reservoirs and a feeder of nearly six 
miles leading from one of them. Of the remaining work, p'ans 
for 7 miles are completed, while those for 2.3 miles are at least 
three-quarters finished and those for 9.1 miles of canal and for 
the Glens Falls feeder are well under way. Thus it is seen that 
about 96 per cent of the canal mileage is under contract. 

Canal and Terminal Construction 225 

" With the exception of various minor structures, operating 
machinery and the like, there remains to be contracted for: Two 
sections of less than a half-mile each, one at either end of the 
Erie canal, a stretch of about two miles at Medina, the spur of 
seven miles to Syracuse, including five miles of lake navigation, the 
arm of 3^^ miles in the Genesee river, together with a dam, to 
form a harbor for Rochester, and some five and one-half miles of 
the Cayuga and Seneca canal. Thus, the Champlain and Oswego 
canals are under contract throughout their entire length, the extent 
of the Erie is broken only by a gap .of two miles at Medina and by 
half-mile stretches at each end, and the 23 miles of the Cayuga and 
Seneca is three-quarters contracted for. 

" The value of work under contract, at contract prices, or com- 
pleted, amounts to $72,710,553, exclusive of the Cayugai and Seneca 
canal, and at the close of 1910, $25,869,723 has been earned .on 
construction work. . . . 

" It was expected that 1910 would make a better showing than 
any of its predecessors and it did not fail in this respect. During 
the year construction work to the value of $9,578,408 has been 
done, and 107 miles of canal have been put under contract, besides 
the great storage reservoir at Hinckley and a feeder 5.75 miles 
long, to divert its waters to the Rome summit level. 

" From the figures for former years ($330,120 in 1905, $711,490 
in 1906, $2,216,300 in 1907, $5,443,303 in 1908 and $7,590,102 in 
1909) a comparative view may be obtained. In the years 1909 and 
1910, the period of my adtainistration, the value of w.ork done, 
$17,168,5)10, is seen to be twice as large as that for the whole 
period of work (four years) that went before. Also, studying the 
mileage table of contracts let (23.9 miles in 1905; 43.6 miles in 
1906; 59.5 miles in 1907; 67.1 miles in 1908, and 121. i miles in 
1909) it may be seen that the miles of canal awarded during these 
two years of 1909 and 1910 is 54 per cent of all that under contract 
to the present time, or 52 per cent of the mileage of the whole 

" When the amount of work done in 1910 is considered, it must 
be remembered that many of the large contracts have been let so 
recently that actual construction has not yet started or has but just 
begun. Even on the great dredging contracts on the Mohawk 
river, that were awarded more than a year ago, the work has 
scarcely begun, so extensive plant installations being required that 


226 History of the Barge Canal 

the machines are still in the trying out stage, before acceptance 
from the builders." 

The period 1909-10 marked the high tide of canal work so far 
as planning and putting work under contract was concerned. Dur- 
ing these two years $39,594,432 worth of work, according to contract 
bids, was awarded. 

Near the end of 1910 there came an inquiry into canal affairs 
by the Governor which demands our attention. The poHtical situa- 
tion of the day may have influenced the Governor in part in his 
action, for the campaign that autumn had been most stormy, but 
probably his own observations during a long pubUc career had more 
to do with it. Governor White had but recently become the chief 
executive of the State. Upon the appointment of Governor Hughes 
to a place on the United States Supreme Court in October he had 
succeeded to the office of Governor. Governor White had been 
State Senator for many years and immediately afterward had been 
elected Lieutenant-Governor. As Senator he had known much 
about the canal and as Lieutenant-Governor he had been a member 
of the Canal Board. At a Chamber of Commerce dinner in New 
York on November 17, Governor \\^hite gave expression to his 
views on canal matters in a speech which attracted considerable 
attention. This he followed by addressing letters of common import 
to the State Engineer, the Superintendent of Public Works and the 
Advisory Board of Consulting Engineers, in which he said in part: 

" After becoming Governor, this [the Barge canal project] 
seemed the most important subject before the State government, 
and since then I have been giving it careful study and im-estigation. 
The complaints and criticisms received, and the information obtained 
convinced me that it vras a public duty to call the attention of the 
people of the State, not only to the progress of the work up to this 
time, but also to dangers and problems of the future, — not so much 
in a spirit of criticism as in the hope that public attention might be 
fixed upon this great work and the most strenuous efforts made 
to complete it expeditiously and in a way creditable to the State. 

" I believe it is desirable that the people of the State shall have 
a complete and thorough knowledge of the conditions at this time, 
and that those in charge of the future conduct of the work may 
have the benefit of }-our information and experience. 

" L therefore, request a report from you covering, as fully as 
practicable, in the brief time remaining, the situation presented by 

Canal and Terminal Construction 227 

the constitutional and statutory provisions, the character of the 
work up to this time, and such recommendations as you may see 
fit to offer." 

Raphes were received from the two officials and from the board 
and in them the canal problems were discussed very freely. In 
reviewing these replies it is well to consider first the one from; 
the Superintendent of Public Works, since his letter partakes 
largely of the nature of a criticism of the existing order, while 
the replies of the State Engineer and the Advisory Board contain 
a general defense of that order. 

It will be recalled that in 1907 Superintendent Stevens criticised 
the State Engineer for the manner in which he had begun construc- 
tion before the plans for the whole project had been completed. 
Mr. Stevens was now finishing a term of four years as Super- 
intendent of Public Works. In company with the State Engineer 
and the members of the Advisory Board the Superintendent had 
spent nearly two weeks in June, 1910, in visiting the various pieces 
of construction work. On the iSth he had made a report to Gov- 
ernor Hughes, criticising some of the details of the work, and on 
the 25th the State Engineer had replied to these criticisms and had 
■furnished to the Governor a detailed statement of the status of 
work upon the several canal contracts. 

A reading of the Superintendent's reply gives one the impression 
that the whole official machinery charged with canal construction 
was fundamentally wrong and that as a result very slow progress 
was being made. The criticisms covered nearly the whole field 
of activities, but they were not constructive, the only definite sug- 
gestion for a change being one which was considered by many to 
possess very grave faults and which also would have occasioned 
much delay in carrying out. The Superintendent seems to have 
ignored the chief cause which had brought about the existing order 
of conducting canal work, namely, the failure of the method gov- 
erning the 1895 enlargement. 

There was much foundation in fact, however, for some of the 
criticism and people in general recognized this, but remedies which 
would not bring other troubles of as serious a nature did not 
seem to be at hand. The Superintendent decried the lack of con- 
tinuity in responsible control, calling attention to the fact that a 
change had occurred every two years in the office of State Engi- 
neer. This complaint was only too true; there had been up to 
this time as frequent a swapping of horses in crossing the stream 
of canal construction as could naturally have happened. The Super- 

228 History of the Barge Canal 

intendent charged also that the State Engineer had too many other 
duties thrust upon him, that the salary was inadequate to the grade 
of service demanded and that he was detrimentally handicapped 
by not 'being allowed under civil service rules to secure such assist- 
ance as would be for the best interests of the State. The Super- 
intendent also reiterated at length his belief in what he termed his 
make-haste-slowly policy, he deprecated the necessity of maintain- 
ing navigation during new construction, he complained that con- 
tracts had been allowed to drag along without applying the remedy 
of cancelation and reletting, he told of his requiring from, the 
Advisory Board certificates of construction satisfactorily done, and 
he suggested as his solution for the difficulties a commission of 
three or five members, to have supreme and directing control. 

State Engineer Williams in his reply acknowledged that the 
official machinery was somewhat unwieldy and did not always work 
as expeditiously as might be desired, but he said that on the other 
hand it possessed the advantage of putting a check upon each 
act of the State Engineer, the official in chief responsible 
charge, by three independent persons or bodies, thus minimizing the 
number of mistakes likely to be made inadvertently, although sacri- 
ficing something of speed. He believed it would be of considerable 
advantage to the project if some scheme could be worked out 
whereby there could be obtained a continuity of administration and 
some consolidation of authority and responsibility without at the 
same time losing the feeling of confidence inspired by the existing 
plan of control. He considered it impossible to put the work in 
the hands of a commission without amending the State Constitu- 
tion, and said that a commission containing the State Engineer and 
the Superintendent of Pubhc Works with their duties as then 
defined would have no real authority aside from these two officials 
and would be subject to a biennial change in its most important 
members. He agreed with the Governor in thinking it desirable 
that the people should have a complete knowledge of the progress 
of construction and said that to that end his department had issued 
a monthly publication, the Barge Canal Bulletin, which had been 
given wide circulation and had shown each month the exact status 
of the work and the money spent for it. He declared that as a 
rule contracts were progressing satisfactorily and moreover that 
as yet the State had not suffered by reason of the failure of any 
to make rapid speed, since uncompleted adjoining contracts pre- 
^ented the use of these portions of the canal. Several times the 
State had annulled contracts because of slow progress and in each 

Canal and Terminal Construction 229 

instance, if a new contract had been let, about a year had elaipsed 
between the stopping and the starting of work. These experiences 
had taught that this method of hastening progress could not be 
looked upon with much favor. The State Engineer believed also 
that the whole work could be completed within the original appro- 
priation, if it were pushed honestly and economically. 

The reply of the Advisory Board was along somewhat the same 
lines as that of the State Engineer. The members said that they 
did not look upon the existing plan of administration as ideal but 
doubted if it could be improved under constitutional requirements. 
The really serious defect, they thought, arose from the frequent 
changes of the officials in control, and this condition would be 
almost fatal were it not for the provision in the Barge canal law 
for a continuing body — the board of which they were members, 
which during the progress of the work had changed in its per- 
sonnel in but min.or part and very slowly at that. In view of past 
lessons and future prospects they deemed it undesirable to make 
any change in the administrative system, adding, " The Board 
believes that the present system while cumbersome in some respects 
does and will in its final result succeed in guarding the work and 
having it carried to completion in a good and economical manner 
and within the appropriation." 

Tjhe autumn of 11910 witnessed a heated political campaign in 
New York state. Feeling ran high. Policies, measures and public 
acts were bitterly criticised and as stoutly defended. Among the 
matters thus attacked and upheld the Barge canal had a conspicu- 
ous place. The campaign ended in a political turnover, a sweeping 
change from the existing order in the executive, the administrative 
and the legislative branches of the State government. That work 
on the canal should reflect this upheaval was but natural. 

When State Engineer Bensel entered upon his duties he found 
several things not to his liking. Among them was the slow prog- 
ress being made by some of the contractors. In February he pub- 
lished a table showing the status of contracts. The text accom- 
panying the table tells the story and we quote it: 

" The accompanying table, now for the first time published in 
the Bulletin, sets forth more clearly than a lengthy description can 
tell it, the exact condition of contract work at the beginning of 

"Analyzing this table, it may be said that the work covered by 
9 contracts has been finished, 4 contracts have been terminated for 
one reason ,or another and 10 contracts were let so recently that the 

230 History of the Barge Canal 

requirement f.or beginning operations was not in force at the begin- 
ning of the year. Of the 58 remaining contracts, 5 are for struc- 
tural steel work and are somewhat dependent on the completion 
of structures under other contracts f.or opportunity of progressing; 
6 are ahead of the percentage that should be done; some 5 are 
very nearly equal to this percentage, and 3 or 4 others are not far 

" This leaves 38 contracts, or nearly half of the 81 let thus far, 
that are noticeably backward in progress. For some of the large 
contracts, awarded more recently and requiring extensive plant 
installations, there may be opportunity to increase speed and finish 
on time. But trouble may be looked for on the contracts that are 
much behind the schedule." 

Another feature the new State Engineer objected to was the 
manner in which negotiations had been made with railroads for 
changing such of their bridges as crossed the new canal. We quote 
what he said in his annual report of 191 1 concerning this matter 
and at the same time call attention to what was said about the same 
subject in the statement the State Engineer issued early in 191 5, 
when he was speaking in regard to the condition of the Barge 
canal appropriation. 

" At several locations along the line of the new Barge canal," 
said State Engineer Bensel, " the work of construction had been 
hampered and in some cases stopped by the fact that no negotia- 
tions had been consummated for the necessary rearrangement of the 
contracts along the railroads' right of way. Throughout the length 
of the Barge canal there are 86 separate crossings and in the major- 
ity of cases changes are necessary in the grade of the railroad and 
the requirements also necessitate new bridges being erected. JJego- 
tiations have been consummated for some of the most important of 
these crossings and the work where such negotiations have been 
completed is now under way by the railroad companies. Previous 
to the present year but little had been done in this regard and the 
nature of the work is both difficult and troublesome on account of 
the features which enter into the question of damage and the diffi- 
culty of maintaining the traffic while the work is in progress. Dur- 
ing the past year six agreements have been consummated with the 
railroad companies and at eight other locations construction work 
has been started by the railroad companies and negotiations are at 
present pending at numerous other places and the progress of the 
canal work is but little hindered except at two localities which are 
now under way for settlement." 

Canal and Terminal Construction 231 

Another change of policy was that effected by the Canal Board 
of 191 1 in reversing the action of its predecessor in regard to water 
leases at the Troy dam. This is a subject of which we shall hear 
later. Concerning its status in 191 1 State Engineer Bensel said 
in his annual report: 

" During the year 1910 action was taken by the previous Canal 
Board in an effort to cancel existing leases of the water not neces- 
sary for navigation purposes at the Troy dam. Early in the year 
discussion arose as to the right of the Canal Board to cancel in 
the manner which they did these existing leases on which depended 
the carrying on of certain portions of the work necessary for 
navigation at this Locality by the United States Government. In 
accordance with the opinion of the Attorney-General the previous 
action by the Canal Board was not deemed proper and was 
rescinded. This brought about some discussion between the State 
authorities and the United States Government as to the building 
of the Troy dam, and while the questions at issue have not as yet 
been definitely decided it is hoped that in the near future the work 
of constructing the Troy dam may be undertaken by the State in 
such manner as was originally contemplated when the people voted 
the $101,000,000 for the improvement of the canal system, to 
extend from Congress street, Troy, to Buffalo, and thus preserve 
for the benefit of the people the water, which will be collected by 
the dam and which will not be needed for purposes of navigation. 
I am of the opinion that the State should construct this portion 
of the canal system in accordance with the vote of the people and 
thus secure the control and operation for the benefit of the people 
of not only the lock, which will be the throat or entrance to all of 
the State canal system, but also the water which will be available 
for power." 

During 191 1 a new design was made for the lock and dam at 
Scotia. Work had been started at this site in the latter part of 
1908, but the contractors were not successful in unwatering the 
coffer-dam they had built, although attempts to do this had been 
made at various times until May, 1910. In August of that year 
the contractors had made application to be released from building 
these structures and had asked for reimbursement for alleged 
damages. The State had held that conditions here had not thus 
far proved more difficult than those successfully met in construct- 
ing dams on similar natural foundations in other rivers and that 
there was therefore no cause for annulling the contract or altering 
the plans. The new admirjistration took a different view of the 

232 History of the Barge Canal 

case and drew plans for building the foundations within pneumatic 

Another problem to confront the engineers in igvi was the 
method of strengthening the bridge superstructures at the movable 
dams in the Mohawk river. These bridges carry the movable parts 
of the dams and also the operating mechanism. Some little time 
before this it had become evident that the superstructures were 
too light, and the question now arose whether they should be 
strengthened simply so that they could operate as dams, as origi- 
nally intended, or so that they might serve as highway bridges in 

An act of 191 1 allowed parts of the Oswego canal again to be 
closed — that between Three River Point and lock No. 11 at Ful- 
ton until July 31 and that between Three River Point and Lake 
Ontario from September 15 to the end of the season. 

A break early in 191 1 in the canal at Bushnell's Basin, near 
Rochester, where the channel is carried on a high embankment, 
called attention to the need of some means for guarding against 
similar accidents in this vicinity. The contract plans were altered 
so as to provide for conducting the canal over the embankment in 
a concrete trough. 

In March, 191 1, the first of the winches for operating the movable 
dams on the Mohawk river were delivered. These came to the 
Fort Plain dam and after certain preliminary work the gates were 
lowered into place against the concrete sill in the river bottom and 
the structure began to function as a dam. 

So much of the whole canal line was under contract at the begin- 
ning of 191 1 that we find but few new contracts let during the year 
and even these were of a minor character. The list contains three 
contracts for bridges, one for a guard-gate, two for transferring 
bodies from flooded areas to new cemetery sites and one for complet- 
ing work in Fulton, which a former contractor had failed to do, 
thereby forfeiting his contract. But the year 191 1 saw much work 
done on the contracts already in force, the increase being sixty per 
cent over that of the previous year and the total amount being equal 
to three-fifths of all that had been accomplished during the six 
preceding years, the period of construction. The contracts found 
backward at the beginning of the year had advanced, so that at 
the close they averaged about 86 per cent of completion. 

The outstanding event of 1912 was the beginning of work on 
the canal terminals. As soon as the official canvass of the vote on 
the referendum was made in December, igii, State Engineer Bensel 



Canal and Terminal Construction 233 

had appointed an engineer to take charge of the new undertaking 
and had begun to assemble for it an engineering organization which 
was distinct in large part from that engaged on the main project. 
While the terminal law described rather definitely the locations of 
most of the terminals, the exact locations wei'e left for determina- 
tion by the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public Works, 
subject to the approval of the Canal Board. To gain the benefit 
of the opinions and desires of the people chiefly interested the State 
Engineer conducted several public hearings. That rapid progress 
was made in planning terminals is evidenced by the record, which 
is shown in the following quotation from the State Engineer's 
annual report. It should be explained that the fiscal year ended 
with September. 

" To the end of the present fiscal year location plans for Barge 
canal terminals for the following localities have been approved by 
the Canal Board : Ithaca, Albany, Little Falls, Utica, Gowanus Bay 
(South Brooklyn), Schuylerville, Schenectady, Rome, Lockport, 
Mechanicville, Fonda, Fort Edward, Greenpoint (North Brooklyn), 
Amsterdam, Erie Basin (Buffalo), Herkimer, Ilion, Troy, Con- 
stantia, Syracuse, Cleveland, Watkins, Port of Call (New York 
city) and Dresden. 

" Contracts have been entered into providing for the construc- 
tion of terminals at the following localities: Ithaca, Albany, Little 
Falls, Mechanicville, Fort Edward, Schenectady and Herkimer. 

" Plans have been completed for the terminals at Gowanus Bay, 
Whitehall, Fonda, Ilion, Amsterdam, Rome, Lockport and Utica, 
and partly completed for Troy and Syracuse." 

On the morning of September 3, 1912, there occurred a serious 
break in the canal at Irondequoit creek. At this point the new 
canal coincided with the old and ran on top of a high embankment, 
widened for the purjxjse, the new channel being carried in a con- 
crete trough, which had been built the year before. The break 
was occasioned apparently by the giving way of the culvert which 
carried Irondequoit creek under the embankment. This caused 
the trough to break and the escaping canal waters washed out about 
five hundred feet of embankment. So great was the length of the 
damaged portion that some persons familiar with repair work pre- 
dicted that navigation could not be resumed during the season. 
But officials from the State Engineer's and Public Works depart- 
ments were on the ground within a few hours and before the da\' 
had passed plans had been formulated and the organization of 
forces and the shipment of equipment and materials had begun, 

234 History of the Barge Canal 

and within five weeks a new temporary channel was ready. In 
making repairs a concrete dam with an opening for the passage of 
boats was built at the end of each imimpaired section of canal and 
after the necessary filling had been made a wooden trough was 
constructed between these dams. The trough was 887 feet long, 
22 feet wide inside and carried a seven-foot depth of water. It 
was supported by piles 25 to 35 feet long and driven to refusal 
in the embankment. 

The State Engineer's report for 1912 contained a recommenda- 
tion for the Legislature to take such action as was necessary to 
secure again for the State the work of constructing the lock and 
dam at Troy, in order that the State at the same time might regain 
jurisdiction over the dam and the potential water-power there avail- 
able. Another recommendation urged on the Legislature the neces- 
sity of securing Federal cooperation without delay in the matter 
of improving the outlets at the several canal termini. The report 
also mentions the problem of railroad crossings and states that 
questions concerning financial responsibility at these crossings were 
being taken to the courts. 

The publicity accorded the Barge canal in 1912 calls for brief 
attention here, although the details of some of the events are gpiven 
elsewhere in the volume. Canal exhibits were shown at six exposi- 
tions, one each at Philadelphia and Pittsburg, Pa., New London, 
Conn., and Syracuse, and two at New York city, and at the three 
out-of-state places lectures were delivered. Papers were read at 
two waterways conventions — that of the State association at 
Watertown and that of the National organization at Washington. 
Many lectures were given throughout the state, and two excursion 
parties, composed of eminent foreigners and each traveling by 
special train, made inspection trips over the length of the canal, 
accompanied by representatives of the State Engineer's department. 

'A fairly large number of canal contracts was awarded in 1912. 
Fourteen bridges were included, two of which were long structures 
of concrete arch type, across the Oswego river, the State in each 
case building the span over the canal and the town building the 
remaining portions. Five contracts were let for completing work 
where former contractors had failed and these embraced the 
southerly part of the Champlain canal, the redesigned lock and dam 
at Scotia, part of the stretch in Fulton and a section in the Seneca 
river near Mosquito Point. Work on the Cayuga and Seneca 
branch included the locks and dams at Seneca Falls and Waterloo 
and the spurs at the heads of both Cayuga and Seneca lakes, that 

Canal and Terminal Construction 235 

at Watkins having been authorized by amendment to the original 
law. Then there were contracts for the Glens Falls feeder and the 
Onondaga lake outlet; one for electrical installation, another for 
a building at the Delta reservoir, and one ,or two more for minor 
details, such as clearing areas to be flooded and removing bodies to 
new cemeteries. 

The closing of the Oswego canal authorized in 1912 included the 
portion between lock No. 11 at Fulton and Lake Ontario and 
extended from the beginning of the season to July 10. 

In March, 191 3, there occurred a flood of unprecedented propor- 
tions, which severely tested Barge canal construction. The high 
water was due to very unusual rains rather than to melting snow, 
and a wide area was affected, the flood that wrought such havoc 
at Dayton, Ohi.o, being caused by the same storm. The whole of 
the old Champlain canal and the eastern portion .of the Erie, as far 
west as Little Falls, were completely under water. Embankments 
both old and new were washed away in several places, especially 
on the Champlain branch, but the new concrete structures escaped 
with almost no damage, in spite of the fact that they were forced 
to withstand strains which had never been anticipated. The Legis- 
lature, then in session, appropriated $75,000 for immediate repairs 
and these were made in time for the opening of navigation. A 
second appropriation, amounting to $200,000, was made for repair- 
ing damages to the Barge canal and this work was done later by 

The terminal contracts awarded in 191 3 included those for 
Whitehall, Fonda, Ilion, Frankfort, Amsterdam, Fort Plain, Utica, 
Rome, Lockport, Port Henry and Plattsburg. Plans were pre- 
pared for terminals at Troy, Erie basin at Buffalo, Oswego and 
Watkins. Other sites approved by the Canal Board were Varick, 
Waterford, St. Johnsville, Cohoes and Ohio basin at Buffalo. All 
of the terminal contracts awarded thus far had provided for noth- 
ing more than dockwalls, terminal areas and harbor or approach 
cliannels. Warehouses and freight-handling devices were to be 
added and already studies for these essentials were being carefully 

By the close of 191 3 we find the State Engineer stating that 
250 miles of completed canal were ready for use as soon as proper 
connections could be made with the existing canal. Among the 
completed structures aside from the locks were the movable dams 
in the Mohawk, the Delta reservoir and the dams at Vischer Ferry, 
Phoenix and Fulton. 

236 History of the Barge Canal 

In spite of former warnings that there was danger that the 
Federal government would not provide outlets at the canal termini 
by the time the canal should be completed there were two of these 
places, Whitehall and Oswego, where nothing beyond making 
investigations and reports had been accomplished. In the Niagara 
river the Goverrunent had done some work, but it Was still to be 
decided how much it would do at Tonawanda. At Troy construc- 
tion was progressing. It was very important that work at all 
these termini should be undertaken without more delay and so State 
Engineer Bensel in his 191 3 annual report again and most ear- 
nestly urged the Legislature to give the subject careful attention and 
to memorialize Congress, setting forth the necessity for immediate 

A law of 1913 authorized the Superintendent of Public Works 
to close such portions of the Oswego canal between Barge canal 
lock No. 2, at Fulton, and Lake Ontario during the year as in 
his judgment might result in expediting the work of construction. 

Among the canal contracts awarded in 191 3 was one for an 
important section of canal now for the first time put under contract. 
This was the channel at Medina. The elaborate tests made in '1910 
on models of a concrete arch aqueduct will be recalled. TJie idea 
of carrying the canal over the gorge by aqueduct or otherwise was 
finally abandoned and instead it followed the old alig^nment through 
Medina, employing an exceptionally wide channel to compensate 
for lack of easy curves and requiring immense retaining walls where 
it circled the gorge. In the year's list were also two contracts for 
finishing work left uncompleted by former contractors, one a sec- 
tion near Utica and the other a portion at Mechanicville. Ten 
bridges were included, four of them being on the stretch between 
Syracuse and Oswego, three at villages in the western part of the 
state, one at Little Falls and another near by and one across the 
Seneca river at Howland island. Three contracts for electrical 
operating machinery were awarded and the remaining work to be 
let included a guard-gate near Crescent dam, steel sheet-piling at 
various places on the Rochester-Lockport level and the delivery of 
lumber and piles at Bushnell's Basin. 

Both 1912 and 1913 were years of large accomplishment in canal 
construction, just as 191 1 had been and as 1914 too proved to be 
for that matter. These were the banner years of construction, the 
central period of activity, when nearly all parts were under con- 
tract and the great bulk of work had not yet been finished. In 
explaining why more was not done in 191 3 the State Engineer said 

Canal and Terminal Construction 237 

that one cause of delay was the litigation connected with the rail- 
road crossings. 

In 1914, just before long stretches of river canalization were 
about to be opened to traffic, we find canal officials considering a 
new feature of construction, that of aids to navigation, such as 
lights, buoys, lighthouses and the like. In the old canal the channel 
ran generally in land line, bordered on both sides by immediately 
adjacent banks ; in the few river sections it hugged closely the bank 
on which the towing-path was built. In channels of this character 
a navigator must have been grossly careless to run aground, but in 
the new canal, nearly three-quarters of which lay in canalized lakes 
or rivers, conditions were entirely different. Somewhere in the 
broad expanse of these lakes and rivers a comparatively narrow 
channel had been excavated and usually in the rivers there was 
not sufficient depth for navigation outside of this channel. It became 
imperative therefore to mark the limits of the channel carefully 
and in 11914 Superintendent of Public Works Peck carried on some 
experiments with lighted and spar buoys, endeavoring especially to 
devise a suitable type of light. The proper color scheme for lights 
and buoys also demanded considerable thought. The Federal gov- 
ernment had adopted a rule that a certain color should be used 
on the right and certain other colors on the left side of a channel 
in proceeding upstream. As Federal waters adjpined the canal 
in several places it was expedient to conform to the Federal rule, 
but the difficulty arose that in doing this the colors would change 
sides while continuing in the same direction, since summit and 
depressed levels would be encountered alternately. The final 
decision was to regard the whole canal system as proceeding up- 
stream in going away from tide-water, without respect to actual 
physical conditions. With this understanding a navigator on a trip 
away from the ocean finds red buoys and red lights on his right 
and black buoys and white lights on his left. 

Two other features to occupy the Superintendent at this time 
were the method of making repairs to lock gates and a better means 
of protecting these gates than was provided by tlie buffer-beams. 
We find him recommending the purchase of portable cranes for 
handling damaged gates and also a type of protection like that used 
on the Panama canal, which is a chain that does not stop a boat 
abruptly, like a buffer-beam, but is paid out gradually by an auto- 
matic release until the boat comes to a stop. 

In 1914 the Superintendent of Public Works was permitted by a 
legislative act of the same year to close such portions of the Oswego 

238 Historij of the Barge Canal 

canal as he deemed expedient. The plan, practiced since 1909, of 
keeping the Oswego canal closed during a part at least of each, 
navigation season doubtless hastened considerably the completion 
of the waterway, and in spite of this procedure the traffic did not 
seem to suflfer. 

Because of the political change which occurred in 191 1 we exam- 
ined closely the status of canal construction at that time. So now 
again, at the time of the next change in administration, we shall 
see how the record stands. State Engineer Bensel in his annual 
report for 1914 tells what had been accomplished thus far. Virtu- 
ally all of the important structures except two near Rochester and 
a lock at Mays Point had been completed or were within a year 
of probable completion. Included in the list were the movable dams 
in the Mohawk river, eight in number, the fixed dams in the 
Mohawk at Vischer Ferry and Crescent, the dams in the Oswego 
river at Oswego, Minetto, Fulton and Phoenix and in the Seneca 
at Baldwinsville, the movable dams at Cayuga and Waterloo, the 
fixed dam at Seneca Falls, the three dams in the Hudson river 
near Mechanicville, two of them fixed and one in part movable, the 
several locks and appertaining structures, and the two large storage 
reservoirs, that at Delta being completed while that at Hinckley 
was within five per cent of completion. 

Mr. Bensel said that the Erie canal from Waterford to Three 
River Point and the Oswego canal thence to Oswego was so far 
advanced that by the spring of '1916 it should all be completed to 
Barge canal dimensions, thus giving passage from the Hudson 
river to Lake Ontario. The Erie from Three River Point to the 
Montezuma aqueduct and also the connecting channel between 
Onondaga lake and the Seneca river were still farther advanced 
and shoiJd be finished by the spring of 191 5. Between the aque- 
duct and Lyons there had been delay on account of the existence 
of several railroad crossings. From Lyons to a point a little east 
of Rochester the canal was virtually completed except at the cross- 
ing of Irondequoit creek, the place where the serious break occurred 
in 1912. From the point east of Rochester to a point about four 
miles west of the city, a distance of some eleven miles, canal work 
was about half done. Within this stretch eight railroad crossings 
were encountered and because adequate provision had not been 
made for these crossings in the original contracts, said Mr. Bensel, 
great delay in advancing construction work had resulted. From 
the point four miles west of Rochester to Tonawanda, approxi- 
mately a hundred miles, the canal might be said to be entirely com- 

Canal and Terminal Construction 239 

pleted, the unfinished parts being small pieces of work which could 
not be done until immediately prior to the time of opening the 
whole new canal in that part of the state to navigation. At Tona- 
wanda there was a short extent of canal to build before entrance 
into the Niagara river might be had, but it was considered that 
this section could be completed in a short time. 

The northerly portion of the Champlain canal, from Lake Cham- 
plain at Whitehall to Northumberland, a stretch of thirty-five miles, 
had already been opened and used for navigation during the season 
of 1914. The remainder had reached such a stage, said Mr. Bensel, 
that it seemed probable that it would be so nearly completed by the 
spring of 1916 that traffic could be turned in, even though certain 
small sections might not have the full depth of twelve feet. The 
portion of the Cayuga and Seneca canal from its junction with the 
Erie branch to Cayuga lake and on through to Ithaca would be 
entirely completed by the spring of '1915. Work on the remainder, 
the section between Cayuga and Seneca lakes, was rapidly approach- 
ing completion and by the spring of 1916 should be ready for open- 
ing to navigation. 

It would appear from this recital that most of the canal should 
have been put in operation in the spring of 1916, but it will be 
seen presently that the forecast was entirely too optimistic. It was 
only by almost superhuman efforts that the canal throughout its 
whole extent was opened to navigation in the spring of 1918. 

In this catalogue of accomplishments by the State Engineer there 
are .one or two things which should have special attention. One is 
a discussion of what he called the northerly and the southerly routes 
in the vicinity of Lyons. He said that when he assumed office he 
found contracts in force for a line north of the railroads and that 
early in 1912 he made a thorough study of the situation with a 
view to a possible change of location. Finding, however, that if 
the change should be made at that time all that had been done 
theretofore would be wasted and also the State would subject itself 
to claims for loss by the contractor, he decided to continue along 
the line already begun. But in his opinion the other route would 
have been better, in that it eliminated several railroad crossings 
and also some crossings of the old canal alignment and moreover 
would have cost considerably less. Furthermore work upon the 
section would have been nearer completion. 

Another subject is that of railroad crossings in general through- 
out the whole canal project. During all of Mr. Bensel's administra- 
tion it was apparent that in the matter of railroad crossings he 

240 History of the Barge Canal 

and also his associates on the Canal Board were not in accord 
with their predecessors. The early policy in regard to railroad 
crossings was one of the first things he criticised and to delays by 
reason of these crossings he attributed much of the lack of better 
progress during his administration. From a statement issued by 
the incoming State Engineer it will be seen presently that questions 
raised in 191 1 as to the legality of former negotiations between the 
Canal Board and the railroads had thrown the matter into the 
courts, where after three years of litigation the original settlements 
were upheld. This decision was handed down by the Court of 
Appeals in 1914 and in his report of that year Mr. Bensel said 
that the extent of the State's liability having thus been determined 
the way was open to satisfactory agreements and also to putting 
an end to further delay. Throughout the whole period of con- 
struction the railroad crossing problem has been one of the most 
troublesome. It would seem that the stand taken in 191 1 retarded 
rather than hastened operations. 

In his report of 1914 we find the State Engineer again urging 
upon the Legislature the need of persuading the Federal government 
to make haste in beginning work at the Barge canal termini. The 
channel in Lake Champlain north of Whitehall was both shallow 
and exceedingly tortuous and although it involved no great amount 
of work its improvement was very necessary. In the situation at 
Oswego a new factor comes to light in this report. Between the 
end of canal construction and the point where the project of 
Federal improvements ended there was a distance of about a thou- 
sand feet. Although this stretch was regarded as being under 
Federal jurisdiction the existing Federal project was interpreted 
not to include it. The State Engineer suggested that the Legisla- 
ture might be called upon to authorize the State to do this work. 

Another item of interest in the State Engineer's report was a 
recommendation that the Legislature take steps to provide for suit- 
able management and operation of the canal, now so nearly com- 
pleted. In this connection Mr. Bensel called attention to the fact 
that the new canal demanded radical changes in the method of 
management and also an entirely different grade of men in its 

A large number of contracts was let in 1914. The erection of 
steel structures made up the bulk of the list, there being more than 
a score of bridges, some of them large and important. These in- 
cluded the superstructure for the movable dam at Scotia and high- 
way bridges at Rome, Amsterdam, Crescent and Brewerton. Other 

Canal and Terminal Construction 241 

types of steel construction in the list were guard-gates, Taintor 
gates, lock gates, lock valves and the strengthening of seven of 
the m,ovable dam superstructures in the Mohawk. Three contracts 
were for completing work left unfinished under earlier contracts, 
the stretches being that between Crocker's Reef and Fort Edward, 
that from Mindenville to Little Falls and that between Fox Ridge 
and the Montezuma aqueduct. Under other contracts of this year 
were included the electrical operating machinery for the Cayuga 
and Seneca canal, a dam at Trenton Falls, channel excavation at 
Waterloo, a stretch of channel at the eastern extremity of the 
Erie canal, some piling at the movable dam at Rotterdam, the fill- 
ing of the old canal at Fulton, the removal of buildings at Seneca 
Falls, the making of closures in the Vischer Ferry and Crescent 
dams and the removal of the Crescent aqueduct. Eight new ter- 
minal contracts were awarded, among them those for some large 
and important terminals. The sites included Troy, Erie basin at 
Buffalo, Gowanus bay in New York city, lake terminal at Oswego, 
Crescent, Thomson, Constantia and Schuylerville. 

But the subject that was uppermost in the canal affairs of this 
period has not yet been touched upon — the exhaustion of the 
appropriation before the completion of the canal. The prospect 
of this event was pointed out in 1912, two years before the inci- 
dents we have jtist been discussing, but we purposely refrained 
from mentioning this warning in its proper chronological setting, 
in order that the entire matter of exhausted and new funds from 
beginning to end might be treated all together. 

All through the early years of constructing the Barge canal the 
engineers steadfastly guarded against overrunning the preliminary 
estimates. It was the engineers who had made these estimates and 
many of the same men who had been employed during the pre- 
liminary stages were engaged in building the canal, and in a way they 
all felt a personal responsibility for not exceeding the estimates. 
Perhaps the feeling that their professional honor and their 
reputation for accuracy were at stake was a more potent agent 
in inducing strict economy than was even their duty to the State, 
sacred as that was considered. The odium of the nine-million 
project had fallen largely up>on the undeserving heads of the 
engineers, and these men did not desire a like experience, for they 
realized that failure to complete the canal within the original appro- 
priation w.ould put them on the defensive and no matter how 
blameless, censure was almost sure to follow. 


242 History of the Barge Canal 

The law which ordered the preliminary survey in 1900, reflecting 
public disapproval of the late fiasco, had directed that the plans 
and estimates should be made with as much care as for actual con- 
struction. One who is familiar with the numberless details of pre- 
paring contract plans for large and intricate engineering projects 
knows of course that, considering the immensity of the proposed 
waterway and the limit of time and money available for prelimi- 
nary investigations, this law was asking the impossible. The result- 
ing estimates, however, as revised in 1903, have proved to be much 
more accurate than is usual on undertakings of comparable size. 

But watchful as had been the engineers, unprecedented increases 
in the cost of labor and materials, the placing of unexpected bur- 
dens upon the appropriation by legislative action, unforeseen diffi- 
culties and delays, changes of administration, and above al!, enor- 
mous claims for damages followed by court awards on a considerable 
portion of them, all these conspired against the hoped-for accom- 
plishment and additional moneys had to be sought in order that the 
canal might be completed. 

Up to about 1 912 the public seems to have had no thought that 
the whole enterprise could not be finished within the original esti- 
mate. State Engineer Bensel was the first to intimate that this 
expectation was futile. In his annual report for 191 2, transmit- 
ted to the Legislature on January 7, 191 3, he stated that after 
thorough investigation he had reached this conclusion. The main 
deficiency in the estimate he found to be in the items for appro- 
priated lands and damages for water-powers and riparian rights. 
The actual cost of building the canal, he thought, together with the 
engineering expenses for preparing plans and supervising construc- 
tion, would come within the estimated amounts for such items. 

This disclosure did not have the effect of causing the Legislature 
to take any immediate steps to supply additional funds. In fact 
Mr. Bensel repeated his warning in two succeeding annual reports, 
those for 1913 and 1914, presented to the Legislatures of 1914 
£ind 1915, respectively, before any such action was taken. The 
public, however, took cognizance of the statement and was inclined 
to criticise. But the fault, if fault there was, appeared to lie largely 
in failure to foresee court decisions. These had made large awards 
for damages and also had placed on the State the burden of other 
unanticipated expenditures. There was nothing therefore that the 
people could do about the matter. 

In studying this period and especially in reviewing this incident 
of exhausted funds it must be remembered that canal construrtion 

Canal and Terminal Construction 243 

was begun and finished under the administration of one political 
party, but that there have been two periods, one of two years and 
one of four years^ when the opposing party has been in immediate 
charge of canal affairs. It was at the middle of the four-year 
period that the State Engineer sent his first report to the Legis- 
lature telling of the need of additional funds. It was to be expected 
therefore that such a revelation would be used for partisan ends 
and that whatever was said might be colored by party feeling. 
Furthermore the year 1913 was one of unusual political turmoil. 
The Legislature, convened by the Governor in extraordinary session 
in June, remained in session the rest of the year and meantime 
removed the Governor from office. 

On December 10, 1913, a resolution was introduced in the Assem- 
bly, which, although it did not become effective, shows somewhat 
the temper of at least one faction of public sentiment. After recit- 
ing that announcement had been made that the canal could not be 
completed within the original appropriation, that a former State 
Engineer had said that it could be so completed, that it had been 
charged that contractors had been permitted to abandon contracts 
after having excavated earth for which they had been paid an 
average earth and rock price, that funds were said to have been 
applied from the appropriation toward work not contemplated in the 
original plans, and that large sums were alleged to have been 
expended for emergency work under extra and unspecified work 
orders, the resolution called upon the State Engineer to present to 
the 1914 Legislature a report in answer to certain questions. 

A perusal of these questions will help to an understanding of the 
whole situation and so we quote them. Although the resolution 
was not concurred in by the Senate and had no authority to draw 
an answer from the State Engineer, nevertheless he did in sub- 
stance respond to it and his answer was contained in his annual 
report to the Legislature of 1914. But before we quote the reso- 
lution we must notice what the State Engineer retiring from office 
at the close of 1910 had said concerning canal completion. A 
knowledge of this statement is necessary to an understanding of 
the resolution. 

"At the end of another year," said the State Engineer in 1910, 
" I repeat the statement that the whole canal can be built within 
the original appropriation. Since 96 per cent of the entire length 
of the canal is under contract at prices aggregating between two 
and three million dollars less than the appropriation for these 
pieces of work and since a contingent fund of about four million 

244 History of the Barge Canal 

dollars, included in the original appropriation, has not been drawn 
upon, this prediction seems well founded." 

The latter part of the Assembly resolution reads as follows: 

"Resolved (if the Senate concur). That the State Engineer and 
Surveyor be and hereby is requested to present to the Legislature 
of 1914, upon the day on which it convenes, a detailed report show- 

" I. \\'hat has been the expenditure during his term of office 
for actual construction work. Hov/ much has been expended under 
the title of emergency work and extra or unspecified work orders. 

" 2. How much has been paid from funds accruing from bond 
issues under his administration for engineering expenses and a 
detailed report of what those engineering expenses include and 
how far the Civil Service regulations have been complied with in 
the expenditure of such money, and a further detailed report of 
the expenditures of all moneys not actually paid to contractors for 
construction work. 

" 3. What contracts have been cancelled and relet in the course 
of his administration. What has been the extra expense to the 
State thereby and what attempts have been made to hold the con- 
tractors failing to complete their contracts liable on their bonds, 
and what was the loss to the State by reason of delay. 

" 4. That he also report what has become of the contingent fund 
of $4,000,000 referred to in the report of Frank M. Williams, 
December 31, 1910, and the $3,000,000 excess created by the let- 
ting of contracts at prices less than the original appropriation for 
that specific portion of the work. 

" 5. That he give the Legislature a full statement of all new 
contracts let during his administration, the amount of work covered 
by these contracts and a statement of the cost of work under sudi 
contracts as compared with the cost of similar work under pre- 
vious administrations. 

" 6. That he also render a statement of any and all supplemental 
agreements during his administration of changes in original con- 
tracts or whether the cost of construction was increased or de- 
creased thereby and how much. 

" 7. That he render a statement of all contracts or work done 
during his administration without competitive bidding and of all 
competitive lettings of contracts. How many competitors put in 
bids, ^^'hat those bids amounted to and whether the contract in 
each case was let to the lowest bidder. 

Canal and Terminal Construction 245 

" 8. That he state how much money will be required to com- 
plete the canal, without reference to claims tor damages, the ac- 
quirement of lands or the payment to riparian owners and when, 
in his opinion, work on the canal must cease for lack of funds 
unless there be a further appropriation or bond issue." 

The State Engineer's gratuitous response to these questions ex- 
plained the situation at considerable length. (Anyone desiring the 
details may find them in the report for the year 1913 and again in 
a somewhat similar review of the status of canal affairs in the 
next year's report.) The State Engineer had a few criticisms for 
the work of the earlier years. He said that contracts for work 
crossed by railroad lines had been entered into before he took 
office and he found that these made no provision for new cross- 
ings or placed the contractors in possession of the sites at such 
crossings ; also that, had certain contracts been carried out accord- 
ing to the plans on which such contracts had been let, navigation 
on the existing canal would have been destroyed. These were 
among the things that had caused delay. But on the other hand 
he paid a signal tribute to those who had made the preliminary 
estimates and this is the more noticeable because they were men 
with whom he had strong political differences. He said that he 
had " no hesitation in stating again that seldom if ever [had] a 
work approximating the magnitude of the Barge canal improve- 
ment been carried to completion at a final cost for construction so 
near to that originally estimated as [would] be the result on the 
Barge canal." 

At the beginning of 1915 the incoming canal administration was 
confronted with an appropriation more than exhausted after exist- 
ing obligations should be met and a waterway only about 85 per 
cent completed. State Engineer Williams at once issued a state- 
ment setting forth conditions as he found them and urging imme- 
diate action, in order that such an important undertaking might not 
fall short of completion by so little nor even he delayed in its 
progress. This statement, though somewhat long, tells so lucidly 
and so succinctly just what is needful for a clear understanding of 
both the whole financial situation and its causes that it seems 
best to quote it here substantially in full. The quotation comes, 
however, from the annual report for 1915, which contained the 
statement given out in January of that year but changed the figures 
slightly to suit the difference in date. It also describes what action 
the Legislature took to meet the emergency. 

""Upon taking office on January i, 1915," said Mr. Wilhams, 
" T fniind. as had been reported by my predecessor, that the appro- 

246 History of the Barge Canal 

priation made for building the Barge canal would not be sufficient 
to complete the work. 

" This appropriation was based on an estimate made by the State 
Engineer in 1903. According to this estimate the work involved 
in constructing the canal would cost approximately $84,000,000. 
The balance of the appropriation was designed to cover damages, 
engineering, incidental expenses and contingencies. It was esti- 
mated also that $2,000,000 would be realized from the sale of 
abandoned canal lands, which would no longer be necessary to the 
State because of deviations from the line of the old canal in the 
course of new construction. This $2,000,000, it was estimated, 
would be turned into the canal fund for the general uses of the 
appropriation, thus making the estimated total cost of the canal 
$103,000,000, of which $2,000,000 would be recovered. About 90 
per cent of the construction of the canal channel with its locks 
and smaller structures has now been completed, and I estimate 
that the total cost under this head will amount to $90,000,000,* 
thus overrunning the original estimate for actual construction by 
about $6,000,000. The principal reasons for this shortage in the 
original estimate are shown in the following seven paragraphs : 

" In 1905 the Legislature amended the original Barge Canal Law, 
giving power to the Canal Board to increase the width of the locks 
from 28 feet, as originally provided, to 45 feet, thus adding to the 
cost of construction about $2,500,000 without increasing the appro- 
priation. Several other amendments passed by the Legislature 
added $250,000 worth of work without at all increasing the appro- 

"During the prosecution of the work up to 1911, the Canal 
Board negotiated settlements with the railroads whose lines were 
crossed by the new .canal, providing by such settlements for the 
necessary changes in railroad grades and alignments and necessary 
railroad bridges. Soon after the advent of a new State adminis- 
tration in 191 1, the legality of the agreements already made and 
future agreements on the same basis was questioned, thereby throw- 
ing the matter into the courts. After three years of litigation tlie 
Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the sett'ements made. This 
litigation, however, had made it necessary to cancel several of the 
existing contracts, for the reason that it was not possible to pro- 
vide the contractors with the entire site of their work. Other con- 
tracts were canceled by the Canal Board on the representation by 

* For the total cost of construction work and the statement concerning 
the reason for a further increase, see the chapter containing tables of 

Canal and Terminal Construction 247 

the Superintendent of Public 'V\''orks department that the prose- 
cution of such contracts under the existing plans would make im- 
possible the maintenance of navigation on the present canals, for 
which the Superintendent .of Public Works is responsible. Another 
class of contracts which has caused a distinct loss to the State in- 
cludes those on which the contractors have been unable to complete 
their work because of financial difficulties and on which the State 
has been compelled to enter and finish the uncompleted construc- 
tion. This has involved the reletting of the balance of the work 
under new contracts, the State holding the bonds of the .original 
contractors as a protection against increased cost. In the meantime 
many of the bonding companies have failed, making recoveries on 
some of the bonds doubtful. As the contractors in all cases men- 
tioned above had completed a portion of their work, as the portion 
thus done was usually the most favorable part and as the cancel- 
lation and reletting involves much additional expense, due to 
resurveying, readvertising and the movement of heavy machinery 
and damage claims, I believe that the appropriation has suffered 
through these causes to the extent of over $4,000,000, in addition 
to the overhead charges for running the various departments, whicli 
should not be estimated at less than an additional million dollars. 

" Other reasons for the increased cost of construction over the 
1903 estimate will be found in the increased cost of materials, par- 
ticularly cement, in the Eight Hour Labor Law and in the Work- 
men's Compensation Law, both pieces of legislation passed subse- 
quent to the making of the estimate in 1903. All of these causes 
have increased the construction cost to a very considerable amount, 
but just how much it is almost impossible to estimate in actual 
figures. The practical working out of this legislation will have to 
be taken into account in making any further estimates. The 1903 
estimate of the cost of constructing these canals will prove to be 
closer to the mark than is usual in engineering works of like magni- 
tude, as, for instance, the Panama canal ; and the State Engi- 
neer's department of 1903, headed by State Engineer and Surveyor 
Edward A. Bond, is entitled to credit for the closeness of its con- 
struction estimate. 

" Many charges have been made against the original appropria- 
tion under the head of incidental expenses which were not con- 
templated by the 1903 estimators. The necessity of maintaining 
navigation on the old canal while building the enlarged channel 
on the same site, as is the case in many sections, presented a num- 
ber of unexpected and expensive difficulties. 

248 History of the Barge Canal 

" Two serious breaks have occurred in the canal east of Roch- 
ester, one in 191 1 and one in 1912, which have already cost about 
$400,000, and for which permanent repairs will entail an expense 
of $250,000 additional. These expenses, together with others arising 
from the necessity of maintaining navigation in the old canal while 
the new channel is being constructed, have been paid by the 
Department of Public Works out of the loi-million appropriationf 
The duty of rebuilding highways destroyed by construction opera- 
tions has also devolved upon the Superintendent of Public Works, 
the cost of which he has paid out of this appropriation, and the 
total expenses of that department charged against the appropria- 
tion have amounted to $1,387,525.17. 

" Injunctions on the part of property owners which delayed work 
or made necessary the readjustment of plans have also added to the 

" The department of the Comptroller has charged against the 
appropriation $375,631.10, while the Claims Department and the 
appraiser's expenses have amounted to $461,751.25. 

" The original estimate did not take into consideration the neces- 
sity for many of these expenditures. 

" The total charge for engineering, including the charges for 
Consulting Engineers, amounts to $9,726,423.64. 

"Under the head of proi)erty damages no provision was made 
in the 1903 estimate which at all adequately provided for the 
enormous damage claims which have been filed nor even for 
the awards which have been made to date, such awards now 
amounting to $11,955,619.55. The above amounts show expendi- 
tures under the various classifications as of December 31, 191 5. 
It was not contemplated that the various power developments en- 
countered on the rivers to be canalized, which had been made pos- 
sible in many instances by the use of waters retained by State 
dams, would be entitled to damages when these dams were altered 
to suit the requirements of the new canal. The total amount orig- 
inally estimated for such damages was less than $200,000. More 
than this amount was awarded by the Court of Claims in a single 
water power damage case. Nor was it expected that the land dam- 
age could rise to so high a figure. Moreover it was not expected 
that the adjudication of these various claims for damages would 
drag through so long a period of time, involving on the part of 
the State considerable expenditure for interest charges. 

" On January i, 1915, the State had under contract, vrork which 
at contract prices would cost a little over $6,500,000 to complete. 

Canal and Terminal Construction 249 

Tihe total expenditures charged against the loi -million appropria- 
tion up to January i, 191 5, amounted in round figures to $96,000,- 
000. It is apparent, therefore, that the State was at that date 
obligated to an expenditure of $1,500,000 more than was available 
in the appropriation. The contracts then in force were of great 
importance and I estimated that to cancel them at that time would 
involve the State in a loss of approximately $5,000,000 unless the 
work was to be permanently abandoned, when the loss would have 
to be measured by the damage claims of contractors, plus the 
greater part of the $101,000,000 already expended. 

" I promptly reported this condition of the appropriation and 
urged that immediate steps be taken to correct a situation which 
appeared to be in direct violation of the Finance Law. On April 
24, 191 5, the Legislature took action by making a direct appropria- 
tion for carrying on the work. In the meantime, however, the 
Board of Claims had handed down a number of decisions involving 
damages against the State and on April i, I found that the over- 
obligation of the appropriation had increased to over $3,000,000. 
It was necessary to make provision to cover this over-obligation as 
well as the amounts necessary to carry the running expenses of 
such departments as were charged with carrying on the work, and 
accordingly the Legislature of 1915 appropriated the sum of $3,- 
654,000 to provide for the completion of contracts that had been 
let prior to January i, 191 5, and for the attendant necessary depart- 
mental expenses. This appropriation did not permit of the letting 
of any new contracts. 

"I estimated as of date of January i, 191 5, that to complete 
the Erie, Oswego and Champlain canals in accordance with the 
requirements of the law as it then stood would require the addi- 
tional sum of $27,000,000. This estimate includes the completion 
of construction, engineering, incidental expenses of other depart- 
ments and the settlement of damage claims of various kinds. The 
amount required to cover such damages is very difficult for me to 
determine accurately, particularly as the adjudication of such 
damage claims is in the hands of departments other than that of the 
State Engineer. 

" The Legislature, therefore, passed an act submitting to the 
people for disposition the question of issuing additional bonds to 
the amount of $27,000,000 for the completion of all work contem- 
plated under the previous act, and for the settlement of damage 
claims arising by reason of canal construction. Provision was made 

250 History of the Barge Canal 

that in the event of raising $27,000,000 by bond issue the $3,654,000 
should be refunded to the State treasury." 

As on other occasions when canal legislation or organized public 
endeavor were needed, the executive and legislative committees of 
the State Waterways Association were .on hand to help. At first 
the advocates urged the Legislature to make a direct appropriation 
for the entire amount necessary to complete the canal, but that 
proposition was refused. Then they suggested the appropriation 
of enough money to put under contract all sections which would 
require two years to complete and that too was refused. Finally 
the Legislature decided to ajjpropriate a fund sufficient only to 
complete existing contracts and to submit to the people a referen- 
dum for a $27,000,000 bond issue, the sum named by the State 
Engineer as the amount needed to finish the waterway and settle 
the damage-claim awards. 

Later in the year the Waterways Association helped by organ- 
izing and carrying on an energetic campaign of education in sup- 
fKjrt of the referendum. The assistance of commercial bodies in 
New York and other cities was secured and considerable interest 
was aroused, sufficient to pass the measure by a majority of 44,917 

That we may know just what the people were voting on, it 
will be well to refer to the presentation of the case as it was made 
by the Barge Cayial Bulletin a week or two before the electorate 
gave its decision. The article is terse and directly to the point, 
especially the conclusion. A few of the more telling excerpts are 

"At present," reads the Bulletin, " the work of constructing the 
Barge canal is about 90 per cent completed. Although it is so 
nearly finished, the uncompleted portions are so located that the 
usefulness of the enlarged waterway cannot be realized without 
their completion. On the stretch between the Hudson river and 
Lake Ontario one uncompleted contract forms the chief obstacle 
to the opening of navigation along the new route. Also, on the 
Champlain canal a single contract forms a similar obstacle. 

" Of the $27,000,000 carried in the referendum practically one- 
half is for the settlement of awards for damage claims. The situ- 
ation in regard to these damage and property claims seems not 
generally to be understood. It should be realized that the policy 
already adopted by the State has obligated it to pay these awards, 
and if funds are not provided by the sale of bonds, money must be 
appropriated by the Legislature within the next year or two, to 

Canal and Terminal Construction 25 1 

meet this obligation, and probably this money would have to be 
raised by direct taxation. 

" From the other half of the $27,000,000 the $3,654,000 appro- 
priated by the 191 5 Legislature must be deducted, leaving $9,846,- 
000 for the work of construction and its attendant expenditures. 
The reasons for the canal costing more than .originally estimated 
were clearly explained in a statement by the State Engineer, printed 
in the January Bulletin. It was there shown that the cost of actua' 
construction would overrun the estimate by only $6,000,000, in 
spite of the fact that $9,000,000, not included in the original esti- 
mate, had been added by legislative acts, by delays and contract 
cancellations due to court decisions and by expenditures for repair- 
ing breaks and maintaining navigation in the old canal, and in 
spite of the additional fact that the cost of labor and materials has 
largely increased since the estimate was made in 1903. It was also 
stated that the chief discrepancy in the original estimate was in the 
item of property damages, there being no precedent at that time to 
indicate that the courts would uphold enormous power development 
claims nor award such high land damages. Already awards to 
the amount of over $10,000,000 have been made and, as stated, 
another large sum is required. 

" To understand fully the situation, it may be well to consider 
what would happen, should the people fail to approve the $27,000,- 
000 referendum. It would mean that the State would fail to 
realize any return for a present investment of over $100,000,000, 
at least, until some means of completing the project should be 
devised, and annual interest charges would be going on meantime. 
. . . Failure to pass the referendum would mean also that 
about $13,500,000 would have to be raised, probably by direct 
taxation, to meet the State's obligations in settling awards. It 
might mean, too, that the Legislature would feel obliged to appro- 
priate the $10,000,000 necessary to complete the canal (possibly in 
several yearly installments) and such action would probably neces- 
sitate additional direct taxation. . . . 

" Briefly, in conclusion, the decision to be made by the voters this 
fall resolves itself into the following simple question : Shall the 
State raise a little less than $10,000,000 by bond sale to complete 
its canal project in the shortest possible time, and $17,000,000 more, 
$13,500,000 of which it is already obligated to pay and must raise 
in some way, and $3,654,000 of which will go back into the treas- 
ury ; or shall the work be halted, the expenditure of more than 
$100,000,000 bring no return, interest charges of $4,000,000 or 

252 History of the Barge Canal 

$5,000,000 be paid each year on a useless investment and $13,500,- 
000 be raised by direct tax rather than by bond issue to meet 
unavoidable obligations? It w^ill be seen that the real question 
centers on the $10,000,000, an amount, it should be noted, about 
equal to interest charges for the two years needed for the entire 
completion of the project." 

With the coming of a new administration in canal affairs as well 
as in State governmental affairs in general there were several 
changes in organization. But the new administration in the State 
Engineer's department was merely the return of an old administra- 
tion, Mr. Williams having been State Engineer in 1909 and 11910 
and before that a member of the department engineering force for 
many years. Soon after he took office he found that he could make 
a large reduction in the number of engineers without jeopardizing 
the efficiency of the corps and so he reduced the force. For one 
thing he dispensed with the separate terminal organization, merging 
it with that earlier effected for canal construction and thereby sav- 
ing a duplication of several high-salaried officials. To the office 
of Superintendent of Public Works came Gen. W. W. Wother- 
spoon, a man of national fame in army affairs. 

An important section of new channel, .that from Waterford to 
Rexford, was ready for opening in the spring of 1915 and because 
this was the portion that emerged from the Hudson and began the 
route across the state and also because it was an unusual section, 
containing the greatest series of high lift locks in the world as 
well as other interesting structures, it was decided to make a gala 
occasion of the opening day. This occurred on May 15 and the 
ceremony consisted in the passing of a boat bearing State officials 
through the Waterford series of locks and on through the new 
body of water formed above the Crescent dam. On board were 
Governor Whitman, Secretary of State Hugo, State Engineer 
Williams, Attorney-General Woodbury, State Treasurer Wells, 
Superintendent of Public Works Wotherspoon, the Governor's mili- 
tary secretary, the deputies, secretaries and chief assistants of both 
the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public Works and a 
Jew others. A second boat carried press representatives. 

The people of Waterford, where the officials embarked, welcomed 
the Governor and his party as they arrived by automobile. Amid 
decorations and waving of flags, to the sound of ringing bells and 
less musical whistles, the party alighted in front of the village 
officials assembled at the town hall and then, between lines of about 
six hundred school children, flanked by most of the population of 

Canal and Terminal Construction 253 

the village and near-by localities, it passed to the waiting boat, 
escorted by a band of musicians and a troop of Boy Scouts. 

Before this new section of canal could be put into use it had been 
necessary to demolish the aqueduct which carried the old canal 
across the Mohawk river at the village of Crescent and also a final 
section of the Crescent dam had to be built. Not until Superin- 
tendent Wotherspoon was well assured that the new line would 
be ready in time did he give the orders to make the closure and 
destroy the aqueduct. This aqueduct, by the way, consisting of 
twenty-six masonry arches supporting a timber trunk, was erected 
about 1842. The Superintendent's order was signed on April 15, 
just a month before the day set for the opening. 

In 1915 navigation was open for the full season on the Oswego 
canal for the first time since 1909. All the new locks were in 
operation and the new channel was available, but as yet it could 
accommodate boats of only six feet draft. 

There was no money available for new work in 191 5 and so no 
new contracts on the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals were 
offered for letting. But the State Engineer had faith to believe 
that the people would vote the additional appropriation and so he 
prepared plans for the remaining contracts, thereby saving con- 
siderable time and being ready to begin construction almost as soon 
as money from the new bond issue became available. 

But the terminal and the Cayuga and Seneca funds were not 
exhausted and a few contracts for these projects were awarded 
during the year. Most of the Cayuga and Seneca canal was already 
under contract, however, and only two minor pieces of work were 
let — one for removing buildings in Seneca Falls and one for two 
bridges in the vicinity of Waterloo and Seneca Falls. Of the ter- 
minal contracts new ones were awarded for terminals at Cleveland, 
Canajoharie, Weedsport, St. Johnsville, Tonawanda, North Tona- 
wanda, Spencerport, Syracuse and Holley and for paving the Al- 
bany site. 

In discussing the status of railroad crossings in 1914 we said 
that the problem of these crossings was one of the most trouble- 
some of the whole canal project; also we called attention to the 
criticisms of the earlier policies and to the court decision that had 
recently been handed down. In his annual report for 1915 State 
Engineer Williams explains this whole railroad situation and he 
does it so clearly that the whole account, although it is somewhat 
long, is worth quoting. The importance of the subject demands 
a careful reading of this explanation. 

254 History of the Barge Canal 

" The points at which the Barge canal crosses the various rail- 
road lines," said Mr. Williams, " have presented many intricate 
problems necessitating careful study on the part of this department. 
The whole matter has been complicated by the lack .of definite judi- 
cial decisions clearly defining the rights and responsibiUties of the 
parties at these crossing points. During my previous term as State 
Engineer, however, decisions had been made to an extent which 
satisfied the then Attorney-General, that in those locations where 
the Barge canal channel is planned to deviate from the channel of 
the existing canals, or from the beds of streams which are claimed 
to be navigable, the responsibility is upon the State to meet the 
expense of providing suitable crossings for those railroads which 
are thus encountered. 

" Acting upon this principle some of my predecessors and myself 
concluded negotiations in respect to a number of railroad crossings 
falling under this head, and several important problems involving 
crossings were taken up and disposed of on that basis. The suc- 
ceeding administration raised the question as to the legality of agree- 
ments of that nature and three years were spent in obtaining a 
decision which was finally handed down by the Court of Appeals, 
in effect, confirming the principle on which the agreements up to 
that time had been made. In the meantime, however, the State 
Engineer was unable to negotiate any new agreements, with the 
result that the whole project of canal construction was very seri- 
ously retarded. 

" On assuming office one year ago it immediately became apparent 
to me that the disposition of a considerable niunber of such cross- 
ings, which remained undetermined and which constituted more 
than two-thirds of the total number, would influence, more than 
any other one factor of construction, the date on which the final 
completion of the canal could be consummated. With that idea 
in mind I at once began preliminary negotiations with the several 
railroads whose crossings of the Barge canal line had not yet been 
adapted to the requirements of that channel. These railroad cross- 
ings naturally fall into three classes. 

" 1st. — Crossings of 'Land Line' sections of the canal. 

" 2d. — Crossings of the present canals which must be enlarged 
to meet Barge canal requirements. 

" 3d. — Crossings of rivers claimed to be navigable. 

"As to the crossings falling under the first head, it has been 
legally determined that the State must pay the full expense. The 
practical working out with the railroad companies of agreements 

Canal and Terminal Construction 255 

covering such crossings involves a great deal of negotiation cover- 
ing the points as to what facilities shall be afforded, type of struc- 
tures, allowance by the State for maintenance and renewals, and 
the granting of equitable rights to the railroad companies to operate 
their lines over such crossings. Inasmuch as the principal feature 
was to pay the railroad companies a fixed sum arrived at by agree- 
ment, they to perform the necessary work on and under their lines, 
much engineering detail has been involved. The stand early taken 
by the railroad companies that, in view of their liability to the 
public for accidents, they must have full control of any work on 
or under their lines of track, is in my judgment well taken and 
settlements have been made on that basis. 

" In order to arrive at the amount which the State should pay, 
each of the crossings is taken up as a separate matter. Plans and 
estimates of quantities are furnished by the railroad companies, 
which plans and estimates are carefully checked over by this depart- 
ment and such modifications are made as are deemed proper from 
the standpoint of the State. The plans and estimates for a cross- 
ing having been agreed upon, a number of responsible contractors 
named by the railroad company and agreed to by this department 
are invited to submit sealed proposals for doing the work. The 
proposal of the lowest bidder if within the estimate of cost deter- 
mined by this department is thereupon accepted as the basis of 
the amount to be paid by the State in full settlement of dam- 
ages and to cover the construction work involved, such construc- 
tion work to be carried on under the direction of the railroad 
company, thus relieving the State of any liability for possible acci- 
dents to trains. Under this method several important crossings have 
been determined upon by me and the construction begun. Negotia- 
tions covering all the remaining crossings under this class have 
reached a point which insure their completion within a very short 

" Lacking judicial decisions it appeared to be an exceedingly 
difficult problem to determine the disposition of the crossings fall- 
ing under classes 2 and 3. After considerable negotiation, how- 
ever, with the New York Central Railroad Company which has a 
majority of the crossings coming under these heads, an agreement 
has been reached by me with that company, that having mutually 
determined the requirements covering clearances, foundations, and 
other details of the structures involved, the railroad company will 
proceed at its own expense to provide the necessary structures. 
The engineers of this department keep an accurate account of the 

256 History of the Barge Canal 

cost involved in the work on these crossings, and an agreement 
has been made between the railroad company and the State, that 
the question as to whether the railroad company shall ultimately 
bear the expense of the work thus done or the State shall be com- 
pelled to reimburse the railroad company for such expense, shall 
be determined by the cpurts. 

" Under this plan several important crossings are now in prog- 
ress of construction and preliminary agreements have been reached 
as to all those remaining, so far as the New York Central railroad 
is concerned. I am still negotiating with the other railroad com- 
panies concerning the crossings in these classes, and believe that 
they will follow the example of the New York Central Railroad 
Company in meeting this problem." 

" One of the most important railroad crossing problems which 
has been successfully worked out by this department," continued 
Air. Williams, " is the crossing .of the JSTew York Central main line 
at Lyons. The Barge Canal Law, chapter 147 of the Laws of 1903, 
provides that the route of the canal shall run from the mouth of 
the Clyde river ' up the Clyde river or any tributary thereof and 
through valleys, or portions of the present canal, on lines selected 
by the State Engineer, to Fairport.' 

" At the beginning of my former tenure of office as State 
Engfineer I found that several routes had been considered for a 
location of the canal in the vicinity of Lyons, but that no decision 
had been made as to which should be adopted. Not being entirely 
satisfied with any of the proposed routes I adopted a line which 
involved following the bed of the Clyde river through Lyons. 
Considerable opposition arose in certain quarters to this decision, 
and a line located on the hillside south of the village of Lyons was 
urged by many, including certain members of the then Advisory 
Board of Consulting Engineers. One of the principal arguments 
advanced in favor of this line was that it would be cheaper because 
the line following the Clyde river involved the crossing of the New 
York Central railroad east of Lyons station, and it was argued 
by those favoring the south route that this crossing would involve 
the necessity of raising at the expense of the State a large part of 
the New York Central freight yards at Lyons at an estimated cost 
of considerably over one million dollars. The objection to the south 
route, however, from an engineering standpoint was that it involved 
carrying the canal in embankment around the bend of the hill 
where the water surface would be seventeen feet above the level 
of the New York Central and West Shore tracks and the Rochester, 

Canal and Terminal Construction 257 

Syracuse and Eastern trolley line, all located within 200 feet of 
what would be the line of the canal. It seemed to me that the 
State would be taking unnecessary risks by such construction as a 
break at that point would result in a complete cutting off .of all 
important rail communications running east and west. Moreover, 
my study of canal building had convinced me that better engineer- 
ing practice would be followed by adopting the low-level line 
through this valley, keeping the canal .on a line which would follow 
the thread of the stream, and thus obviate the necessity of embank- 
ments with an attendant loss of water by leakage and danger of 
breaks. Such decision is also in line with the best modern European 
engineering practice in canal construction. 

" The contracts covering the construction of the canal in this 
vicinity were let a short time previous to the expiration of my 
former term of office, and work under such contracts was progressed 
for some time under the succeeding administration. These con- 
tracts, however, were all subsequently cancelled in an uncompleted 
condition because of the legal problems relating to railroad cross- 
ings in general, which applied to the crossing east of Lyons. I 
found, therefore, that the w.ork of the canal in this vicinity was 
uncompleted and that no attempt had been made to solve the rail- 
road crossing problem. I also found that many plans had been 
suggested for meeting this problem, but none were advanced which 
did not either involve the raising of the Lyons yards or the expendi- 
ture of so much money to avoid the raising of the yards that the 
total was prohibitive. 

" Early this year I gave my personal attention to this matter 
and a thorough study of the subject convinced me that it was prac- 
ticable to regulate the flow of the Clyde river by the construction 
of controlling works to be situated two miles east of the village of 
Clyde, which could be built at an estimated cost of $14,600. By 
adopting this plan it became possible to carry the canal under the 
main line of the Central railroad at Lyons without affecting the 
freight yards. After considerable negotiation an agreement has 
been entered into with the New York Central Railroad Company 
for the complete construction of this crossing at an expense of 
$329,656.60. I feel that this determination of the question entirely 
justifies the decision of the State reached five years ago from the 
standpoint of the only objection made to it, namely, that of expense, 
inasmuch as it is now clear that the route selected is not only in 
line with better engineering practice, but is also cheaper than would 
have been the so-called 'Southern Route.' 

258 History of the Barge Canal 

" My investigation which resulted in the determination to regulate 
the Clyde river by controlling works, also reUeves the State of a 
possible expenditure of a quarter of a million dollars for the recon- 
struction of other railroad bridges lying between Lyons and the 
location of the controlling works." 

It will be recalled that State Engineer Bensel had reported at 
the close of 1914 that the spring of 1916 should see the new 
channel open for navigation throughout the whole of the Cham- 
plain canal and also the Erie and Oswego stretches from the Hud- 
son to Lake Ontario. This was found impossible .of accomplish- 
ment and Mr. Williams' account of the reasons is enlightening. At 
the beginning of 1915, he said, there were two essential sections of 
the canal, one at Schuylerville and the other near Utica, which 
were not under contract, and as the fund was already over-obli- 
gated and additional money had to be appropriated to keep existing 
contracts in force, there could be no thought of letting these two 
contracts until after the people had voted another appropriation. 
In fact the Legislature had stipulated that the money furnished for 
carrying on existing contracts should not be used for new work. 

The State Engineer's report for 1915 gives in compact form the 
status of canal and terminal construction at the close of that year 
and we paraphrase it. It appears that the northern portion of the 
Champlain canal, from Whitehall to Northumberland, 35 miles, 
had been practically completed and was opened to navigation in 
1915. A contract for work between Northumberland and Schuyler- 
ville was about to be let. From Schuylerville to a point three miles 
above Waterford the canal was virtually completed, while the 
remaining portion, the three miles to Waterford, was sixty per 
cent completed. 

All of the Erie canal from Waterford to Three River Point was 
completed except a section near Utica and also certain excavation 
between Jacksonburg and Herkimer and at Rome, New London, 
Sylvan Beach and a few points in the Mohawk river. The greater 
part of the uncompleted work lay west of Three River Point and 
this included the completion of the lock and dam at Mays Point, 
the completion of the canal from the Wayne-Seneca county line 
to Lyons, from the Wayne-Monroe county line to a point just west 
of Rochester and in a five-mile stretch through the Montezuma 
marshes, also the construction of the Rochester spur and the 
entrance into the Niagara river at Tonawanda. The State Engineer 
said that there would seem to be no difficulty in completing this 
western section of the canal by the opening of navigation in 1918. 

Canal and Terminal Conslruction 259 

He laid no special emphasis on this statement at the time but in 
the light of subsequent events it becomes important and we should 
remember it. y 

The Oswego canal was completed to full dimensions virtually 
throughout its entire length. The Cayuga and Seneca canal was 
finished with the exception of some excavation between Seneca 
Falls and Geneva and the completion of minor structures. 

Concerning terminal construction at the close of 1915 the State 
Engineer said that on the Champlain canal dockwalls had been com- 
pleted at Mechanicville, Thomson, Fort Edward, Whitehall, Port 
Henry and Plattsburg. On the Erie canal dockwalls had been com- 
pleted at Albany, Troy, Crescent, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Fonda, 
Fort Plain, Little Falls, Herkimer, Ilion, Frankfort, Rome, Holley 
and Lockport, and construction was in process at Canajoharie, St. 
Johnsville, Utica, Cleveland, Constantia, Syracuse, Weedsport, 
Spencerport, Tonawanda, North, Tonawanda and Buffalo. On the 
Oswego canal only one contract had been let, that for the lake 
terminal at Oswego and here work was under way. On the Cayuga 
and Seneca canal also there had been only one contract, that at 
Ithaca, where the dockwall had been completed. The time had 
come when warehouses and freight-handling machinery could be 
added to the terminal equipment and plans for doing this were 
nearly ready. At New York city, where nearly half of the terminal 
appropriation was to be expended, only the Gowanus bay ter- 
minal was under contract. The State Engineer said concerning 
the New York situation that in 1914 land had been appropriated 
for the construction of four terminals not mentioned in the ter- 
minal act ; also that the appropriation was not large enough for con- 
struction at all the places specifically mentioned, to say nothing 
about the four additional sites. Pending the settlement of exist- 
ing claims in New York the State was proceeding slowly in incur- 
ring new obligations. 

In his report for 191 5 the State Engineer again made his peren- 
nial plea for Federal cooperation at the Barge canal termini. To 
a casual observer reviewing the events of these years this subject, 
because of its continuous sameness and lack of results, might almost 
appear as an annual joke, but in reality it was farthest removed 
from this characteristic. The situation had become serious and 
still Federal assistance was withheld. 

At the close of 1915 it was expected that by August i, 1916, the 
new Champlain canal, with a channel of sixty feet minimum width 
and twelve feet depth, would be in use throughout its whole length. 

260 History of the Barge Canal 

But subsequent study showed that by speeding up construction and 
leaving a part of the w.ork temporarily unfinished the canal could 
all be opened to traffic on May 15 and moreover by doing this the 
making of repairs on the old canal simply for part of a season's 
use would be eliminated. Accordingly this plan was followed and 
it was deemed that the saving thus effected in cost of repairs more 
than compensated for the necessity of deferring the contemplated 
size of channel for a year, especially as the time for passage from 
Whitehall to Troy was thereby nearly halved and the deeper river 
channel permitted an increase in size of cargo of about fifty per 

Also a long new section of the Erie canal, adjoining that opened 
in 1915, was first put in use on May 15, 1916. This extended 
from Rexford to Jacksonburg, all except a few short stretches 
being in the Mohawk river channel. Thus the 86 miles of new 
canal at the eastern end of the Erie branch were navigated during 
1916. This extent, together with the completed portions in the 
western part of the state, made a total of 184 miles of improved 
Erie channel in use this year. In addition all of the new Oswego 
branch was in operation. 

The only celebration connected with the opening of new channel 
in 1916 was one at Little Falls, held on June 30 and July i, in 
honor of completing the new lock at that place. This structure 
has the distinction of having the greatest lift of any of the whole 
canal system and also of being, when construction was begun, the 
highest single lift lock in the world. Governor Whitman was at 
the celebration and made an address. The ceremonies included a 
pageant which consisted of a series of spectacles depicting various 
stages of progress — from the glacial age to the present time, which 
latter was denominated the period of prosperit/. 

We have seen that an additional appropriation was voted by the 
people in 191 5 and also that the State Engineer had anticipated 
this favorable verdict and was ready, with plans prepared, to beg^n 
operations as soon as possible. Proceeds from the bond sale were 
not available till February, 1916, but shortly thereafter new con- 
tracts were awarded and construction was in progress. Among the 
contracts .of the year were a large mmiber for- finishing work left 
uncompleted under former contracts. This work was rather widely 
scattered. There was a piece between Sterling creek and the Oneida 
county line, another near New London, one near Lyons, quite a 
stretch a little east of Rochester, sections on each side of the 
Genesee river, another east of Tonawanda, and one on the Cham- 

Liglitliousc oil Oneida lake, at Brcwcrlon. Three lighthouses, all similar in liesign — 
one at the east end. Sylvan Beach, one at the west end. Brewerton, and one between. 
on Frenchman's island^ — mark the two main sailing courses along the lengtli of the 
lake, about 20 miles. Each lighthouse is about 85; feet Jiigh. Those "at Sylvan Beach and 
^ _^^n1n v^^ncculting _ white lig hts of i,5ou candle-power; that at 

Canal and Terminal Construction 261 

plain canal between Stillwater and Northumberland; also the com- 
pletion of the lock and dam at Mays Point and of the river bridge 
at Schuylerville. All this work had been placed under contract once 
before but most of the contracts had been canceled by State 
Engineer Bensel because of his inability to settle the railroad cross- 
ing problems. There were also contracts for bridges, some of them 
large and important. These were located at Minetto, Little Falls, 
Lockport and Northumberland and one, known as Freeman's 
bridge, was situated near Schenectady. Of the new work there were 
a few important pieces, such as the Rochester harbor, lighthouses 
and other navigation aids in Oneida and Onondaga lakes, a junction 
lock at Rome and another at Mohawk and the channel at Oswego, 
which the Federal government had failed to dredge. The other 
pieces were small and of less account. These latter included 
dredging in the canal basin at Albany, a spillway at Waterford, 
governor equipment at the Crescent power-house, an apron at 
Vischer Ferry dam, a widening of channel at Canajoharie, repairs 
to the dam at the same village, channel completion at old canal 
intersections between Jacksonburg and Herkimer, repairs to the 
dam near Cayuga, sewers at Rochester, bank protection north of 
Waterford, a channel widening where the Hoosic river enters the 
Hudson and a diversion channel for Bond creek, near Fort Edward. 
New terminals put under contract in 1916 were those at Pier 6 
and Greenpoint in New York city, Lyons, Rochester, Medina, Ohio 
basin at Buffalo, Rouses Point and the river terminal at Oswego. 

We find the engineers giving considerable study to the larger 
kinds of navigation aids in 1916. Traffic was about to be turned 
into Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca lakes and plans for 
lighthouses, range lights, beacons, lights on breakwaters and large 
buoys for lake channels were demanding attention. But this was 
a subject in which there was an abundance of experience on other 
projects to draw from and conditions on the Barge canal were not 
so unusual as to present any very serious problems. 

At the end of 191 6 State Engineer Williams said in his annual 
report that in spite of steadily increasing difficulties in securing 
labor and structural materials and also in spite of delays in com- 
pleting negotiations relative to work at Rochester and Tonawanda, 
he was still in hope of so progressing operations that the whole 
Erie canal could be opened in 1918. 

In speaking again of the need of Federal cooperation at the 
canal termini the State Engineer said that it had become necessary 
for the State to undertake the work at Oswego. Although the 

262 History of the Barge Ctmal 

waters in which this work lay were under United States control, 
the Government did not seem disposed to do it and therefore the 
State had obtained permission from the Federal authorities to 
excavate the necessary channel, in order to assure through naviga- 
tion between the Hudson river and Lake Ontario in the spring of 
1917. Of the remaining termini, that at the Hudson river entrance 
was provided for. With the opening of navigation in 1917 there 
would be a full depth channel there. In the Narrows in Lake Cham- 
plain, just north of \\'hitehall, a depth of only ten feet was avail- 
able and no funds had been provided for deepening the channel. 
At Tonawanda certain material should be removed in order to 
effect a propter connection between the Barge canal and the Niagara 

The Cayuga and Seneca canal was ready for full navigation at 
this time and in 191 7 would have been available for boats of the 
increased dimensions except for the lack of direct connection with 
the new Erie canal. To supply this lack a temporary junction lock 
would be necessary and its use would be of only short duration. It 
was decided that the advantages to be gained were not worth while 
and accordingly, until direct permanent connection could be made, 
boatmen were obliged to use the long, roundabout channel, which, 
however, accommodated nothing but small boats. 

In connection with this statement concerning the Cayuga and 
Seneca canal the State Engineer added that there was a possibihty 
that the total expenditures incidental to the improvement of this 
canal might overrun the appropriation — not that the cost of con- 
struction had exceeded the fund but that judgments against the 
State on account of property damage might more than exhaust the 
amount remaining of the original appropriation. The possible 
excess, however, in his opinion, would not be sufficient to require 
another referendum, but could be met by legislative appropriation, 
in the same manner as was customary in meeting other obligations 
of somewhat similar character. 

Work not contemplated in the original Cayuga and Seneca 
scheme, the State Engineer explained, had been added without 
increase being made in the appropriation. It was intended at first 
to carry the canal through Seneca Falls without disturbing to any 
large extent the water-power or the manufactories of the village. 
In 191 2 contract plans were approved which involved the wiping 
out of many power and business interests, thus bringing on the 
State liability for large damage claims. Moreover Cayuga lake 
inlet had been improved, although the law described the route as 

Canal and Terminal Construc6on 263 

going only to the inlet, and also the old Chemung canal between 
Watkins and Montour Falls had been improved, even though 
according to the original law the work was not to extend beyond 
Watkins. But this latter addition was ordered by a legislative 
amendment in 191 1. These two pieces of work had cost $450,000, 
exclusive of engineering, land damages and other incidental expend- 
itures. It will be noticed that the State Engineer in calling atten- 
tion to the reasons for the Cayuga and Seneca canal costing more 
than was estimated was speaking of events which occurred prior 
to his administration. 

The work in the vicinity of Rochester was the last portion of 
any considerable size to be undertaken. From the very beginning 
of Barge canal building there had been trouble in coming to any 
agreement with the authorities of the city as to the whole scheme 
of construction in this locality. Then too there were several near- 
by railroad crossings to complicate the situation. These railroad 
crossings were the kej' to the situation. State Engineer Williams 
on his return to office vigorously set about the solving of these 
neglected problems. Finally, after nearly all other parts of the 
canal were either built or nearing completion, the controversy was 
settled to the satisfaction of all concerned and work had been rapidly 
pushed during 1916. 

The main line of the canal runs through the southern outskirts 
of Rochester and the city is reached through a spur. A dam in 
the Genesee river near the heart of the city maintains the river 
level to form this spur and also creates the pool upon the surface 
of which the main canal crosses the river. Along the banks of the 
river were located railroad lines and at six places within a few 
miles railroads crossed the canal. South of the city the canal cuts 
through a park, which the citizens insisted should not be despoiled 
of its beauty. The Genesee is subject to severe floods and the 
people did not want this condition aggravated. The city on the 
one hand was striving to secure all it desired by way of improved 
conditions; the State on the other hand was endeavoring to keep 
down canal costs. It is not difficult therefore to see why discus- 
sions were protracted and agreements not easily reached. 

As finally worked out the plans provided for dikes along the 
river banks adjacent to the park, drains to care for seepage which 
might filter through the dikes, foot and highway bridges of artistic 
design to span the canal in the park and the passing of a creek 
underneath the canal. In the river there was to be a movable 
dam, in part of the bridge type and in part of the submersible 

264 HistoTS of the Barge Canal 

sector type, and the river channel was to be bordered with v/alls 
high enough to prevent or at least lessen the possibility of damages 
by flood, the additional cost of constructing these walls to be 
assumed by the city. A canal terminal near the dam, long stretches 
of relocated tracks and the construction of a new railroad station 
were also included in the plans. 

In his report for 1916 State Engineer Williams said that the 
subject of warehouses and machinery for the various terminals had 
been receiving considerable attention. Each terminal had been 
studied individually and its particular needs considered. He was 
proceeding with the idea in mind that rather simple freight-handling 
equipments should be provided at first and the volume and the 
nature of shipments should be allowed to determine the need of 
more elaborate machinery. Two new terminal contracts had been 
let for New York city, one for Pier 6, East river, and one for 

Also in this report Mr. Williams deprecated the policy which 
had dictated the hasty appropriation of valuable water-front prop- 
erty in New York city without any preliminary negotiations to 
establish a price and before plans and estimates had been pre- 
pared and contracts let which would lequire the possession of such 
lands. The opposite of this method had been the almost invariable 
rule on canal and terminal improvement elsewhere in the state, 
even in dealing with much less valuable property. The unneces- 
sary interest charges thus created in New York city would probably 
run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Up to the close of 
1916 it had not been possible to effect settlements or have the 
courts pass upon the values of these lands and until this could be 
done and it was known how much money would be available for 
construction, contract plans could not well be made and no action 
could be taken toward locating terminals in other sections of the 

With the opening of navigation in 191 7 the portion of the new 
Erie canal from Jacksonburg to Three River Point was put in 
service. This was the goal which the builders had set for them- 
selves during the preceding year. Together with the completed 
Oswego canal this gave passage now for boats of Barge canal 
dimensions from the ocean to Lake Ontario, the most easterly of 
the chain of Great Lakes. 

The contracts let in 11917 were largely those incidental to finish- 
ing the channel in order that it might all be opened the followinj^ 
spring. There were two important new pieces of work — the mov- 

Canal and Terminal Construction 265 

able dam in the Genesee at the foot of Rochester harbor and the 
m,ost westerly section of the canal, that at the ^Niagara river 
entrance. Nine bridges were in the list. These were at Scotia 
(the raising of an existing bridge), at Little Falls, near Sylvan 
Beach, at Phoenix and Lyons, two in Genesee Valley park at 
Rochester, at Tonawanda (an important bascule structure), and one 
at Clyde, which was more than a simple bridge, being called a 
viaduct. Two contracts furnished lights, buoys and posts for navi- 
gation aids. Three provided lor finishing uncompleted work — 
the channel between Lyons and Newark, the prism at railroad cross- 
ings near Pittsford and the approach to a bridge in Schuylerville. 
The remaining contracts provided for hoists for bulkhead gates at 
Vischer Ferry dam, a dam in the old canal at Rome, the removal 
of the Montezuma aqueduct, an additional Taintor gate at the dam 
at Lyons, lengthening spillway and raising banks near Palmyra, 
rebuilding the power-house at Palmyra, machinery for the guard- 
locks at the Genesee river, a junction lock at South Greece, a drain 
at Brockport, cribs below locks Nos. 3 and 6, Champlain canal, 
and a cut-off wall at the Seneca Falls locks. 

Among the terminal contracts of 1917 we find for the first time 
those for warehouses and machinery. The new terminals included 
Mott Haven and West 53d street in New York city, Cohoes, Albion 
and Middleport. The warehouses awarded were to be built at 
Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Fonda, Fort Plain, Little 
Falls, Ilion, Frankfort, Utica, Rome, ,Newark, Spencerport, Holley, 
Albion, Medina, Lockport, both lower and upper terminals, Tona- 
wanda, North Tonawanda, Mechanicville, Fort Edward, Port Henry 
and Whitehall. In the machinery contracts there were stiff-leg 
derricks for Albany, Little Falls, Rome, Lockport, Tonawanda and 
Whitehall, also two portable conveyors, one for Schenectady and one 
for Pier 6, New York city, and equipment for the terminal lock at 
Utica. In addition there was a contract for a 1,200-foot pier at 
Gowanus bay. New York city, one for paving at Rome and another 
for drains at Utica. The warehouses built at most of the places 
named in this list were known as temporary structures — not that 
they were not well built, but they were of frame construction rather 
than more permanent materials. The buildings at Albany, White- 
hall, Fort Plain and Little Falls were called permanent warehouses, 
but the terminal fund was not sufficient to permit like substantial 
construction at many localities. 

The year 1917 was one of most intense activity in canal con- 
struction. It has been seen that at the close of 191 5 State Engi- 

266 History} of the Barge Canal 

ner Williams had predicted that the spring of '1918 would see the 
whole new waterway open to navigation and also that at the dose 
of another year he had said that there was still hope of attaining 
this end, although difficulties and delays had multiplied. Early in 
1917 there came a new incentive. The United States entered the 
World war and the already congested traffic routes became hope- 
lessly overwhelmed. It was vividly apparent that there was much 
need of such relief as could be given by a completed modern water- 
way along the route of greatest freight movement from the inte- 
rior to the coast, and State officials and contractors alike were fired 
with a determination to supply that need as quickly as possible. 
But we shall not say more now of these activities, which began in 
the early part of 191 7 and ended with the opening of navigation on 
May 15, 1918. The story forms so interesting an account and a 
subject which is so complete in itself that it 'is being reserved for a 
separate chapter. 

Briefly we may review a few statements in the State Engineer's 
account of the year's work as told in his annual report. On the 
Champlain canal only two contracts remained uncompleted, the 
work still to be done being a small amount of excavating south of 
Fort Edward and in the vicinity of Schuylerville. The Erie canal 
was virtually completed from the Hudson river to the Cayuga and 
Seneca junction at Montezimia. West of that point the unfinished 
portions were near Clyde and Lyons, in the vicinity of Rochester 
and at Tonawanda. Whether the canal could be opened through- 
out its entire length was to be determined by the completion of 
the work in the vicinity of Rochester. This work consisted prin- 
cipally in the construction of a dam across the Genesee river, heavy 
excavation through and east of Genesee Valley park, the building 
of a guard-lock, the completion of the concrete trough across the 
Irondequoit valley and some excavation between that point and 

The canal route through Tonawanda had presented many inter- 
esting but most complex problems. Here the interests of the State, 
the municipalities and the railroads seemed to be in conflict. The 
objects to be attained were these: Tonawanda creek must be 
deepened and connection made with the Niagara river; the dam in 
this creek had to be removed ; two railroad lines crossing the canal 
were to be consolidated into one line and carried over the canal on 
a movable bridge; a movable highway bridge must be constructed; 
minor alterations were to be made at another highway bridge and 
also another railroad bridge and eventually these two structures 

Canal and Terminal Construction 267 

must be changed so as to give unlimited headroom over the canal. 
The special chapter on the work of this year tells how this work, 
in spite of its intricacy, was carried to successful completion. 

In 1917 an interesting canal celebration, unlike any other demon- 
stration connected with Barge canal construction, was held in the 
city of Rome. It commemorated not a new but an old event, not the 
completion of some portion of the new waterway but the beginning 
of the original State canal. Before the days of internal improve- 
ments Rome had been the important inland center of trade and 
travel in the state, since here radiated the routes along the interior 
watercourses. It was quite in keeping with this preeminence there- 
fore that the enterprising citizens should have seized their oppor- 
tunity of having the first work on so tremendous an undertaking as 
a canal across the length of the state performed in the vicinity of 
their village. Their zeal must have been extraordinary. The first 
contract was dated June 27, but on July 4, 1817, combining the 
canal and Independence Day celebrations, the first sod was turned, 
accompanied by appropriate ceremonies and in the presence of State 
officials and other distinguished persons. The celebration in Rome 
on July 4, 1 91 7, was the centenary of this event. By the united 
efforts of city officials and officers of the State Waterways Asso- 
ciation it was made a memorable occasion. While it commemo- 
rated a century-old occurrence, the pervading spirit was of the 
present, not of the past — the ever-living spirit of improvement, 
the spirit which in its day attempts great achievements in order 
that the progress of the future may be the swifter and the surer. 
State Engineer Williams, one of the speakers at the centennial 
exercises, caught and voiced this characteristic of the celebration. 
"As we all know," said he, " our gathering today is in commem- 
oration of a ceremony which took place near here one hundred 
years ago. But our meeting would be of little significance were it 
not a fact that the enterprise which that ceremony ushered in 
became a predominating agency in shaping the destinies of the 
State and the nation. And if we did not feel that the spirit of 
waterway improvement, born that day, still lives and exerts a 
mighty influence in the affairs of our commonwealth, as evidenced 
in the unparalleled accomplishment of the past decade, doubtless 
none of us would have any desire to be here today, nor have any 
thought of perpetuating the memory of that event a century ago." 

The chief event of the celebration was a public meeting at the 
Family Theater. The exercises were opened by Samuel H. Beach, 
chairman of the local committee, who introduced as presiding 

268 History of the Barge Canal 

officer, Henry W. Hill, president of the State Waterways Associa- 
tion. Mr. Hill presented the following speakers: George Clinton 
of Buffalo, Governor Charles S. Whitman, State Engineer Frank 
M. Williams, Thaddeus C. Sweet, Speaker of the Assembly, Judge 
Oswald P. Backus of Rome, Edward R. Carhart of New York, 
former president of the New York Produce Exchange, and Wm. 
Pierrepont White of Utica. Of these Mr. Qinton was a grandson 
of DeWitt Qinton and Mr. White a grandson of Canvass White, 
one .of the prominent engineers of the original canal. 

At this meeting there were shown some interesting relics. On 
the stage of the theater were placed oil portraits of DeWitt Qinton, 
Chief Engineer Benjamin Wright, Engineers John B. Jervis, Can- 
vass White and Nathan S. Roberts, and Judge Joshua Hathaway, 
president of the village of Rome in 1817, who presided at the cere- 
monies of beginning the original canal. There were exhibited also 
a model of a canal boat, brought from England by Canvass \\'^hite, 
and two surveying instruments, also brought from England, used 
by Benjamin \A^right in making the original surveys for the early 

An interesting side-light of this celebration was the locating of 
the point where was performed the ceremony of breaking ground 
for the original canal. So.on after the completion of this canal 
accurate surveys, to show property lines, vrere made by Holmes 
Hutchinson, one of the early engineers and later chief engineer. 
On the maps of this survey, preserved in the State Comptroller's 
office, the location of this point of first work is distinctly marked, 
accompanied by an explanatory note. The day before the centen- 
nial celebration the State Engineer sent one of his assistants to 
locate and mark this point. It is situated a little to the west of the 
remains of Fort Bull, an important military post during the French 
and Indian war of 1756. Since the outlines of the original canal 
are well-defined in this locality the restoration of this point was 
not difficult. It happened to lie at a place where the original and 
the enlarged Erie canals intersected. The point was marked by 
planting an American flag and on the morning .of July 4 a company 
of out-of-town guests and a few of Rome's citizens went to the 
spot and were photographed, grouped around the flag and standing 
in the bed of the canal which had recently been superseded by the 
Barge canal. 

In his report of 1916 the State Engineer had warned the Legis- 
lature that the Cayuga and Seneca canal might overrun its appro- 
priation. At that time it had appeared that construction work might 

Canal and Terminal Construction 269 

be completed within the original funds and that the additional 
money would be needed simply for damage claims, but during 1917 
judgments had been handed down by the courts and settlements 
made which exceeded the anticipated amount, and as a result funds 
were not available for doing the few things left undone. To insure 
the entire completion of this canal the State Engineer called upon 
the Legislature then in session, that of 1918, to appropriate a sum of 
$350,000. The Legislature complied and voted the amount desired 
(chapter 28). The work remaining to be done consisted in com- 
pleting certain cut-off walls at the Seneca Falls locks and finish- 
ing prism excavation to full dimensions at some of the railroad 

In making his appeal at this time for Federal cooperation at the 
canal termini the State Engineer said that although the central 
Government felt obliged to confine its expenditures to war neces- 
sities, it would seem, in view of the millions si>ent by New York in 
building a canal which would assist materially in relieving freight 
congestion, that the United States should furnish the small amount 
of money involved and make the necessary connections between 
canal and Federal waters. 

On May 15, 191 8, the new canal was opened to navigation 
throughout its entire length. The interesting scenes preceding this 
event need not be given here since they are described, as we have 
said, in a chapter devoted especially to the subject. But the fact 
that the whole canal was in use does not mean that the new water- 
way was entirely completed and that nothing whatever remained to 
be done. It is true that the parts still to be finished did not 
prevent through navigation, but they were essential nevertheless to 
the completeness and efficiency of the canal. After opening the 
canal to navigation the largest piece of construction work remain- 
ing to be done was that in the Rochester harbor. By means of the 
expedient of a temporary dam across the Genesee the canal could 
cross the river and traffic could go on without interruption and at 
the same time the river was left free for building the spur to Roch- 
ester and completing the harbor and the rather complex adjacent 
construction. Another work to be done was the widening of the 
channel at the places where partial widths had been made to suffice 
for the initial opening. There were many other small pieces of 
work which were of such a character that they could be done 
without interfering with navigation. These consisted in complet- 
ing the removal of the Montezuma aqueduct, building a few 

270 HistoT}) of the Barge Canal 

bridges and power-plants, removing washed-in material, laying wash 
wall, cutting off projecting points and other miscellaneous work. 
In terminal construction also there remained much to be done. 

One small feature of this first year of navigation on the whole 
new system is worth noticing. The Superintendent of Public 
Works reported that more than fifteen hundred lighted aids to 
navigation of various types were maintained during the year. 

[During 1918 the few remaining railroad crossings were so nearly 
completed that very little remained thereafter to be done. There 
were eleven of these crossings on which work was in progress dur- 
ing the year. One was at Schenectady, one at Brewerton, one at 
Lyons, two near Rochester, two at Tonawanda, one at Cayuga, one 
near Seneca Falls and two near Geneva. 

Terminal work progressed steadily during the year. Most of the 
terminals had been equipped with dockwalls and areas prior to the 
opening of navigation in the spring and at several localities there 
were temporary warehouses and partial equipments of freight- 
handling devices, so that the terminals were ready for whatever 
traffic might be offered. During the year these facilities were some- 
what added to and enlarged; also some new warehouses were con- 
structed, a few rail connections were made and some freight-hand- 
ling apparatus was installed. 

The canal contracts let during 1918 were for small pieces of 
work here and there, either in completing some unfinished portion 
or in making an improvement which actual use of the canal had 
dictated. By way of completing the channel the contracts pro- 
vided for removing the aqueduct at Rexford, excavating at the 
Brewerton railroad bridge, completing the excavation in the Fed- 
eral waters at Oswego, repairing a sewer at Seneca Falls and com- 
pleting several unfinished places in the Cayuga and Seneca branch. 
The list of improvements included channel excavation below the 
dams at Scotia and Rotterdam, waterproofing the concrete prism 
lining at Little Falls, a movable dam at Mohawk village, bank pro- 
tection between the two locks near New London, improving the 
spillways at the two locks near Rochester, realigning the bridge on 
the west road between Henrietta and Rochester and building con- 
crete guide-piers below the locks at Mechanicville and Fort Miller. 
There were also contracts for furnishing lanterns, buoys and lamp 
posts for the channel in the Seneca, Clyde and Genesee rivers and 
Tonawanda creek and for a bascule bridge over the upper lock at 

Canal and Terminal Comirucion 271 

The. list of new terminal contracts in 1918 is large. The names 
of two new terminals appear, Pier 5 and Long Island City, both in 
Greater New York, and at the latter place a contract for a ware- 
house also was let. Several .other new warehouses, or freight-sheds, 
were provided for, these being located at Pier 6 at New York, 
where contracts for plumbing, heating and wiring were added, 
and at Amsterdam (a second house), Canajoharie, Little Falls (an 
extension), Herkimer, Utica (an extension) and Syracuse, and 
on each of piers Nos. i and 2 at Erie basin, Buffalo. Paving was 
contracted for at Long Island City, Schenectady, Amsterdam, 
Fonda, Frankfort, Utica, Oswego (lake terminal), and Erie basin, 
Buffalo. Railroad or crane tracks were to be added at Schenec- 
tady, Utica, Oswego (lake terminal), and Erie basin, Buffalo, 
both piers Nos. i and 2. There were also contracts for cap- 
stan and trolley hoist machinery at Pier 6, derricks at Syracuse, 
and fourteen two-ton tractor cranes, which were delivered at Pier 
6 (two cranes). Long Island City, Troy, Schenectady, Amsterdam, 
Utica, Oswego (lake terminal), Syracuse, Lyons, Lockport (lower 
terminal), Tonawanda and Erie basin, Buffalo (two cranes). In 
addition there were contracts for razing buildings at the site of 
the upper Troy terminal, for a fence at Amsterdam and for shore 
protection at Erie basin, Buffalo. 

At the close of the year State Engineer Williams called the atten- 
tion of the Legislature to the fact that it must squarely face the 
situation that canal terminal construction could not be carried on to 
satisfactory results, nor even as originally contemplated, unless 
further appropriations were made. The authorizing law had speci- 
fied rather explicitly what was to be done at each locality, but 
because of increased costs and other adverse conditions these direc- 
tions could not be followed to the full without exceeding the funds 
then available. At several places, Troy and Rochester being con- 
spicuous examples, the original appropriation was entirely inade- 
quate to provide for anything like a satisfactory development. 
Moreover some localities on the canal, which had not been named or 
provided for by the terminal law, were asking for canal terminal 
facilities. Mr. Williams recommended therefore that additional 
appropriations be made. 

During 1919 the little work that was done on canal construction 
consisted in additional bridges to span the channel, further protec- 
tion to banks and channel, widening the approach in the Rochester 
harbor and other miscellaneous work. In terminal construction 

272 History of the Barge Canal 

there was considerable activity, the larger part of it being in New 
York city, although more or less was done at other localities. The 
installation of freight-handling machinery and electrical equipment 
held a prominent place in the attention of the canal builders. 

On the afternoon of October 14, 1919, the canal terminal at Pier 
6, East river. New York city, was formally turned over to the 
Superintendent of PubHc Works by the State Engineer. Appro- 
priate exercises had been arranged to mark in a fitting manner this 
the occasion of placing at the disposal of commerce the first well- 
equipped warehouse of modern type to be owned and operated by 
the State. There was present in the new terminal shed a large 
assemblage. Prominent among those gathered were Governor 
Smith, the members of the Canal Board and other State officers. 
Dock Commissioner Murray Hulbert and other officials of New 
York city and also officials of other municipalities of the state, 
former State officers, who had had to do with the inception of canal 
and terminal projects, representatives of commercial organizations 
of the state and a large number of prominent citizens. 

The ceremonies were opened by State Engineer Williams, who 
formally notified Superintendent Walsh of the completion of all 
construction work on the terminal and duly transferred the structures 
to him for maintenance and operation. In a brief speech Mr. Walsh 
accepted the responsibility and then turned the rest of the ceremonies 
over to Lewis Nixon of New York city, who, it will be remembered, 
had been prominent in early canal and terminal agitation and who 
had been Superintendent of Pubbc Works for a short time. After 
making an address Air. Nixon called upon Governor Smith, also 
some of the members of the Canal Board and others. 

At the shore end of the freight-shed at Pier 6 there had been 
erected a building in which were located not only the offices con- 
nected with the terminal itself but also suitable quarters for the New 
York city offices of the departments of the State Engineer and the 
Superintendent of Public Works. On the day following the cere- 
mony of opening the terminal the Canal Board held a meeting in 
one of these rooms. This was the first time that the Board had ever 
held a meeting in New York dty in a building owned by the State 

In 1919 a hundred lights were added to the fifteen hundred already 
in use as navigation aids. The State was trying to encourage the 
boatmen to run at night and the attempt was gradually meeting with 
some success. The importance to both shipjjer and carrier of 

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Canal and TeTminal Construction 273 

operating the whole twenty-four hours of the day was apparent. It 
was during this year that a fleet of the old type of canal boats made 
a new record for passage from seaboard to Lake Erie — four and 
two-thirds days. The equipment of lights, buoys and other markers 
was now fairly adequate. The weakest part of the whole Hghting 
system — the corps of light-tenders — was about to be reorganized. 

Of the canal contracts let in 191 9 five were for completing work 
in the vicinity of Rochester. These included channel excavation in 
both the Genesee river spur and the main line near the river; also 
two bridges in Genesee Valley park. In addition there were con- 
tracts for prism excavation near Fairport, for completing concrete 
lining at Cartersville, repairs to the lock and dam at Rotterdam, 
sheet-piling and concrete lining at points along the Rochester-Lock- 
port level, rebuilding the upper end of the Lockport flight of locks, 
a bridge at Lyons, extending core-wall at the Seneca Falls dam, and 
navigation aids in Cayuga and Seneca lakes. 

Among the terminal contracts awarded in 1919 were two new 
names — Hallets Cove and Flushing — both in Greater New York. 
The remaining contracts included warehouses or freight-sheds at 
Greenpoint, Gowanus bay. West 53d street and Flushing, all in 
Greater New York, and at Cohoes, Rochester and the river terminal 
at Oswego; also plumbing, water or heating systems in the houses 
at Long Island City, Troy and Erie basin, Buffalo, and electric 
installations at the latter place, at Long Island City, West 53d 
street and various other terminals in New York city and elsewhere. 
There were contracts also for dredging at three of the New York 
terminals, for paving at four of them, for freight-handling cranes 
at Pier 6, West 53d street and Greenpoint, for minor machinery at 
several other New York city terminals, for clearing lands and erect- 
ing structures at Rochester and for shore protection at Erie basin, 

In his annual report for 1919 Mr. Williams again called attention 
to the need of additional funds to make the terminals as complete 
and as efficient as the canal demanded. Since the Barge canal was 
called upon to compete with the railroads and also the Canadian 
canals and since it had to overcome such obstacles as ignorance, 
indifference, prejudice, open opposition, sharp competition and the 
inertia of established commerce, it needed every help to enable it 
to reduce shipping costs to a minimum and no field was so fertile 
for reducing these costs as that of terminal expenses. Mr. Williams 
recommended therefore that money be appropriated for full terminal 

274 Historj) of the Barge Canal 

equipment. He recommended also action to induce the Federal 
government to cooperate at the canal termini. 

The Legislature to which this appeal was made for additional 
terminal moneys responded by appropriating $750,000 for New York 
city terminals, $600,000 for Buffalo and $500,000 for Rochester. It 
was to this Legislature, that of 1920, that the strong pleas for grain 
elevators were made by Governor Smith, State Engineer Williams 
and Superintendent of Public Works Walsh. This want was also 
supplied in part. Elevators were authorized at Gowanus bay. New 
York city, and at Oswego, the former with a prospective appropria- 
tion of $2,500,000 and the latter with one of $1,000,000, but only 
$550,000 and $225,000, respectively, were set aside at that time. 

In 1920 another hundred channel lights were added to the naviga- 
tion aids, bringing the total to about 1,700. The buoy system, in the 
opinion of Superintendent Walsh, was now the most nearly perfect 
of its kind in the United States. Moreover at the beginning of the 
season a reorganized light-patrolling scheme was instituted. Instead 
of the former haphazard selection of men from among those living 
in the vicinity of the buoys to be tended, the positions were placed 
in the competitive civil service class and appointments were made 
from eligible lists established by open examinations. Formerly also 
it had been required that these men furnish their own craft, but 
now a motor boat was provided for each man, to be used solely in 
the performance of his duties. In addition the patrolling sections 
were shortened to an average length of ten miles and the lights in 
each section were placed under the charge of a single employee. It 
was his duty to visit each light under his care every day and keep 
it in perfect condition. During the season the new plan showed 
excellent resxilts. The type of young men attracted to this service 
promised for the State a conscientious attention to the work and 
the most serious problem connected with this important branch of 
canal administration seemed to have been solved. 

A small amount of construction work was done on the canal in 
1920, but all ,of it was what may be termed incidental work. It 
consisted in building bridges, providing additional protection for 
banks and structures and some miscellaneous work of a character 
to improve the conditions of navigation. The bridges, nine in 
number, were located at Tonawanda, Phoenix and Schenectady, 
and near Rochester and Lyons. The last of the railroad bridges, 
the structures which had given so much trouble all through canal 
construction, was among the number and this last one was nearly 

Canal and Terminal Construction 275 

completed. Bank protection was needed near Rochester, Macedon 
and Cartersville. In addition there were a widening of the channel 
near Crocker's Reef, repairs to the Lockport locks and the Seneca 
Falls dam, the substitution of a new type of dam for one less satis- 
factory at Mohawk and the completion of work coimected with 
canal construction in Genesee Valley park, near Rochester. 

The spur to Rochester, about three miles long and lying in the 
Genesee river, was opened to navigation in 1920. The channel 
in the river had a width ,of at least one hundred feet, which would 
accommodate traffic till it could be widened to two hundred feet. 

Considerable progress was made in terminal construction during 
1920 — in extending what had not already been completed. Since 
the terminal project was so nearly finished at this time it seems 
fitting just now to review briefly what had been done at all of the 
terminals. To do this it is necessary simply to quote certain reports 
of the year. Both the State Engineer and the Superintendent of 
Public Works gave a summary of terminal construction in their 
annual reports and in addition Mr. Williams read a paper on 
" The Development of Barge Canal Terminals " before the State 
Waterways Association at its annual convention on November 11, 
in which he described what had been done, especially in New York 
city, and included in his description many details of freight-hand- 
ling devices. The first quotation comes from this paper. Follow- 
ing it there appears an excerpt from Superintendent Walsh's re- 
port. This latter gives in tabular form the status of all terminals 
in the state except those situated in New York city. 

" The most important terminal equipment," said Mr. Williams, 
" is the freight or transit shed for cargo held on the wharf in 
transit between barge and shcre. The function of the shed is to 
protect freight from the elements and to prevent theft of merchan- 
dise. The general features of construction are not essentially dif- 
ferent from those of similar structures not located on the water- 
front. The sheds should be sufficiently large in area to hold the 
freight in transit, space should be provided so that the cargoes may 
be spread out to allow sorting according to consignments and, as a 
rule, it is wise to construct sheds without posts supporting the roof 
so as to have a clear, unbroken floor space to facilitate the handling 
of goods. 

" We have built or are constructing several types of sheds. For 
example at Pier 6, and at G.owanus Bay, we are using steel frame- 
work with corrugated metal siding in order to obtain lightness of 

276 History of ihe Barge Canal 

construction. At Albany and Whitehall, where the buildings are 
on solid fill, we have erected a steel framework with reinforced 
concrete siding. At some of the outlying terminals we have put 
up temporary wooden sheds. 

" Vessels in New York Harbor usually carry their own loading 
facilities, but barges plying the canals of the state cannot carry 
high masted derricks for the reason that the headroom under the 
bridges spanning the canal is limited. Hence for this reason un- 
loading machinery must be installed on the wharves. There are, 
however, additional reasons. The primary object of installing 
freight handling machinery on wharves is to reduce the cost of 
transportation by saving in the cost of labor, by increasing the 
speed of loading and unloading vessels. Increasing the speed of 
unloading hastens the turn-around of the barge and hence in- 
creases the tonnage a given boat can carry in a given time. 

" We are installing for these purposes as fast as the freight 
sheds are completed and funds are available, traveling cranes, der- 
ricks, portable conveyors, and are supplementing these with other 
means of moving freight along the wharf. These consist of hand 
and electric trucks, tractors and trailers, railroad connections and 
other devices. 

" There are several kinds of wharf cranes, but the most com- 
mon is the revolving type. This consists of a derrick with a boom 
or jib which may be raised or lowered by a motor mounted on a 
turn-table. This may be the low locomotive or auto type or may be 
the portal or gantry type in the form of a movable bridge spanning 
a roadway on the side of the wharf or pier. When one of the 
rails for such type of machine is placed on the side or top of the 
shed, the machine is called a ' semi-portal ' crane. 

"We have in use three different types of traveling (crane; 
another type will be ready for use next spring and we have plans 
out for some special heavy duty bridge cranes. 

" The first type is a so-called straight line crane of ij4 tons 
capacity which travels on a runway supported on the ro.of of the 
freight shed and which delivers freight inside the shed. This 
crane has a boom hinged to a frame so that in its normal working 
position the inner end of the boom projects about ten feet inside 
the shed doorway, the outer end reaching to a point about 25 feet 
from the face of the dock. The machine is electrically operated 
and may be moved from door to door. 

Canal and Terminal Construction 277 

" The second t3^e of crane in use is a semi-portal revolving jib 
crane of three-ton capacity. It is made up of a substructure shaped 
like an inverted ' L ' called a semi-portal or half gantry. The 
vertical portion is supported on trucks which travel on a rail in the 
wharf deck. The horizontal portion travels on a rail attached to 
the transit shed. The boom of this machine rotates and has an 
effective reach of 28 feet beyond the face of the wharf. This 
machine is also electrically operated. 

" The third type is a steam driven auto-<;rane, supported on four 
large traction wheels, carrying a vertical frame with operating 
machinery and steam boilers. The boom is about 30 feet long and 
swings through an angle of 90 degrees. 

" The fourth type is known as a burtoning crane. It travels on 
a runway located on the roof of the warehouse in a similar man- 
ner to the conveyor crane. It has a one-ton capacity and is oper- 
ated by electricity. 

" Derricks of various type and designs are used at the terminals. 
Some are operated by electric power, others by hand. The largest 
derricks are of lattice steel construction and consist of masts held 
by two stiff legs. The booms range from 44 to 74 feet in length. 
These derricks have a capacity of about 12 tons. For loads of 
two tons and under wooden stiff leg derricks are installed. 

" The conveying and tiering machine consists of a framework 
on wheels supporting one or more endless belts. It is especially 
adapted for handling freight in uniform packages and is simply a 
moving gang plank. This machine eliminates passing packages 
from hand to hand, the stevedores working at each end of the 
moving platform. The conveyors are capable of handling pack- 
ages at the rate of a ton a minute and can transport packages as 
fast as they can usually be fed. 

" The movements back of the water line and in the transit shed 
consist of sorting, delivery to trucks, drays, cars and lighters and 
tiering. The principal equipment for this purpose is the hand 
truck supplemented by electric truck and tractors. The electric 
tractors are about 3 feet wide and 7 feet long and travel on four 
rubber-tired roller bearing wheels. They are in effect small, elec- 
tric locomotives and in operation each handles a train of trailers 
behind it. The electric truck carries a larger load, moves faster 
and requires less labor than the hand truck, and is more economi- 
cal from many viewpoints. 

278 History of the Barge Canal 

" The location .of the transit shed in relation to other carriers 
is of great importance. The object is to eliminate the use of the 
dray for every movement to and from the warehouse except that 
of local delivery. Hence, we are providing rail connections to assist 
in the receiving and delivery of freight at every important terminal 
where it is possible to obtain rail service, the function of the rail 
service being to connect the wharf with local railroad siding and 
to connect the railroad system with the waterway. 

" The most highly developed terminal so far completed and 
thrown open to traffic is that at Pier 6, East River, New York 
City. This structure embodies the latest ideas on the design and 
eqmpment of a freight-handling pier available for canal traffic. In 
its mechanical handling equipment, particularly, it is considered in 
advance of any of the piers in New York harbor. 

" In making studies of the development of the site at Piers 5 and 
6, it was planned to work along lines that would secure the most 
efficient operating conditions and the most intensive use of the 
structure at hand. It was decided to use types of construction hav- 
ing a fairly long life rather than to erect structures of a cheaper 
type that could be quickly erected but which would have to be 
scrapped at a later date or require large annual maintenance 

" The terminal is located on property acquired by the state from 
the City of New York for $191,900. Piers 5 and 6 had been set 
aside for canal barges since the early days of the Erie Canal, but 
before the present improvement a single modern barge of 1,000-ton 
cargo could not be handled without costly delay and confusion. In 
the older part of New York all piers were originally laid out in the 
days of sailing vessels when the turn-around of the vessel was not 
given the importance that it is today. The piers were then used 
more as rimways for moving cargo than for transit storage, and 
with the increase in the size and cost of vessels it has been found 
that the older piers and slips are wholly inadequate to handle modern 
cargoes. The same condition applies to canal traffic on the enlarged 

" Pier 6, as acquired, was only 50 feet wide and could not be 
widened, on account of the width of the adjacent slips, to more 
than 85 feet. With the width of the pier determined by compromis- 
ing cargo requirements with physical conditions, the problem was 
to get the best layout possible under the circumstances. The 
freight-handling equipment had to be considered in connection with 

Canal and Terminal Construction 279 

the size of pier available. This led to the selection of jib cranes 
for transferring freight. These were preferred because of speed 
and because of special adaptability for unloading barges operating 
on the state canals. 

" In adopting jib cranes, it was decided to use the semi-portal 
type and provide an uncovered roadway on the outside of the 
freight house in order to keep trucking in general outside of the 
freight house proper and to provide areas of deposit for miscellane- 
ous cargo as deposited by cranes on the pier deck from the hold 
of the barge. 

" In spite of the preference for the above type of crane, it was 
evident that with a pier of 85 feet width, it would not be possible 
to use cranes of that type on both sides of the pier and still have 
a freight house of any considerable capacity. A decision was 
reached to use the jib crane and roadway on the west side of the 
pier and to build a freight house 50 feet wide, bringing the east 
side of the building fairly close to the east side of the pier. In 
conjunction with a well known firm manufacturing special freight- 
handling machinery, a type of crane was designed to meet the con- 
ditions on the east side of the pier. This special crane consists of 
a boom projecting over the barge and through the doors into the 
freight house a short distance. 

" The pier shed is of steel columns and roof trusses are spaced 
20 feet center to center and the clearance within the shed is 18 
feet 6 inches. The length of the new pier is 563 feet and the 
length of the shed is 490 feet. 

" In rebuilding Pier 6, the old structure was cut down to the 
water line and capped and replaced with vertical posts. Pile bents 
were extended 11 feet on the east and 24 feet on the west side 
giving a total width of 85 feet. 

" Two semi-portal cranes have been installed. These have 6,000 
pounds capacity, a hoisting speed of 120 feet per minute and a 
slewing speed of one and a half revolutions per minute and a 
traveling speed of 150 feet per minute. The outboard reach is 28 
feet. The special conveyor cranes on the opposite side of the shed 
have a 3,000-pound capacity, and have an outboard reach of 23 
feet. One tiering machine and one portable package conveyor have 
been installed for moving freight back of the wharf. Oflfice space 
is provided in what is known as the headhouse. The operating 
force uses the first floor of the headhouse and the administrative 
offices for New York City are on the second floor. The terminal 

280 HistoTS of the Barge Canal 

has been equipped with heating, plumbing, lighting and battery 
charging equipment and is up-to-date in every respect. The cost 
of the freight house and equipment and reconstructed pier was 
$380,000. The total cost to the State for the entire terminal at 
Pier 6, including acquisition of site and dredging, was $625,000. 

" It is our plan eventually to shed and equip Pier 5, but for the 
present we have simply repaired the pier and installed two steam 

" I shall not have time to describe the development of terminals 
at all of the other places in New York, but at Gowanus Bay, which 
is the terminal designed for the accommodation of ocean-going 
vessels, we have built a marginal wharf 700 feet long, dredged the 
harbor to 35 feet, graded 30 acres back of the bulkhead, constructed 
a pier 1,200 feet long and 150 feet widei, erected a temporary 
wooden freight shed, and awarded a contract for the building of 
a steel freight shed. A grain elevator, of which I shall speak 
later, will also be constructed at Gowanus Bay. 

" Other terminals in New York City, nearing completion or well 
under way are located at West 53rd Street, Greenpoint, Mott Haven, 
Long Island City, Hallets Cove, and Flushing. There have been 
completed in New York City and vicinity nearly two miles of dock- 
ing space and about five acres of freight sheds and accommoda- 

" Along the line of the canal generally, we have constructed 
terminals of the marginal wharf type. The waterway being com- 
paratively narrow, conditions have not lent themselves, as a rule, 
to the building of the projecting or pier type of wharf. 

"At Rochester, a marginal wharf 2,000 feet long has been con- 
structed, a temporary freight shed erected, and the terminal 
equipped with one steam crane, and several small derricks. The 
situation at Rochester is very complicated in that the Lehigh Valley 
Railroad occupied part of the site, and becaiise it was necessary 
to maintain navigation in the old canal up to the beginning of the 
present year and also because of the elevation of the top of the 
wharf in comparison with the elevation of the adjacent streets of 
the city. 

" It was necessary to relocate the Lehigh Valley Railroad yards, 
and to build a long reinforced concrete approach to the terminal. 
Costs had so greatly increased since the funds were originally 
appropriated in 191 1, that we were unable to complete the developn 
rtient of this terminal. The last Legislature, however, provided 

Canal and Terminal Construction 281 

additional funds and we are now going ahead with the uncompleted 
portion and expect to award a contract to begin work on a perma- 
nent freight shed within a month or two. 

" At Syracuse, the terminal is located at the head of Onondaga 
La^e on the old salt marshes. A channel has been dredged to 
connect with the Barge Canal and a temporary freight shed erected. 
We have had considerable difficulty in getting railroad track con- 
nections installed, but within the last month an agreement was made 
by which a siding has been placed along the terminal shed by the 
D., L. & W. Railroad. 

" At Utica, the line of the Barge Canal is some distance from 
the site selected for the terminal and it was necessary in this case 
to build a lock of standard canal dimensions and excavate a channel 
and harbor in order to locate the terminal so that it would be 
within easy reach of shippers. 

"At Buffalo, we are developing two state-owned terminals, one 
at Erie Basin and the other at Ohio Basin. Up to the close of 
last season we had constructed two piers at Erie Basin, paved part 
of the site, built a temporary wooden freight shed 200 feet long 
and connected it with the New York Central Railroad for industrial, 
purposes. Since then we have finished the construction of a per- 
manent steel freight shed on Pier No. i, 500 feet long by 80 feet 
in width. The warehouse will be equipped with heating, plumbing 
and lighting systems, and we have recently awarded a contract for 
two electric semi-portal revolving jib cranes of a 3-ton capacity. 
The cranes have an effective reach of 28 feet beyond the face of 
the dockwall. There are also in use on the terminal two steam 
cranes, of the Byers type. The booms are 30 feet long and the 
machines have a capacity of two tons. The area surrounding the 
piers has been dredged to 20 feet, which makes it possible for lakers 
to dock and load or unload cargo at the terminal. 

" At Ohio Basin, we have dredged the harbor to a depth of 20 
feet and this will eventually be surrounded with a concrete dock- 
wall and paved wharf. The Old Banner Milling property is so 
situated that it can be converted into a terminal freight shed. There 
was recently advertised a contract for continuing the wall around 
Ohio Basin but the bids received were so high that the contract 
could not be awarded. At the last meeting of the Canal Board I 
presented revised plans for this work and the contract will be 

282 History of the Barge Canal 

re-advertised shortly. Our funds are limited and it will only be 
on the basis of increased appropriations that we will be able to con- 
tinue the work of developing the Buffalo Terminals. 

" At Oswego there are two terminals, one known as the river 
terminal, and the other as the lake terminal. The lake termini!, 
as its name implies, is designed to accommodate lake vessels as 
well as barges and in this respect is similar to the terminals at Erie 
Basin, Buffalo, and at Gowanus Bay, Brooklyn. 

" Wharves have been constructed at about forty other municipal- 
ities along the line of the canal and the equipment of these with 
freight houses, cranes, etc., is being furnished as needed. 

" In addition to a lack of funds to carry out the development 
scheme for some of the present terminals, there are three respects 
in which the terminal program is not complete: 

" First: No provision was made in the original act for terminals 
at cities along the Hudson River below Albany and outside .of New 
York City. 

"Second: No provision was made for coal handling equipment 
to be located on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes for the handling of coal 
from the nearby mines in Pennsylvania. 

" Third: No provision was made for grain elevators. 

" I have repeatedly urged the adoption of measures looking toward 
the fulfillment of all of these items, but that of the grain elevators 
is the only one of the remaining items which has as yet received 
favorable consideration at the hands of the Legislature, although it 
is my belief that affirmative action will sooner or later be given 
to the others." 

Superintendent Walsh said, "At practically all points along the 
line of the improved canal where indications existed as to the 
development of traffic in sufficient amount, terminal docks have been 

" Below will be found a complete list of these localities with the 
equipment which may be found available at each. Where the name 
of the locality alone appears, a dock wall only has been provided. 

Canal and Terminal Construction 283 

Location Type and size of warehouse Freight handling machinery 

Albany Concrete and steel, 33 x 210 15-ton hand steel derrick, 2-ton 

portable steam crane. 

Amsterdam Timber (2), 32 x 100 i-ton derrick, electric. 


Buffalo Timber, 32 x 200; concrete 

and steel, 80 X 500 Two 2-ton portable steam cranes. 

Canafoharie. . . . Timber, 32 x 50 ^-ton hand derrick. 




Fonda Timber, 16 x 100 J-ton hand derrick. 

Fort Edward. . . . Timber, 16 x 30 ^-ton hand derrick. 

Fort Plain Timber, 32 x 100 i-ton hand derrick. 

Frankfort Timber, 1 6 x 60 i-ton hand derrick. 

Fulton Timber, 20 x 50 i-ton hand derrick. 

Herkimer Timber (2), 16 x 100 and 20 

X 33 i-ton hand derrick. 

Holley Timber, 16 x 30 i-ton hand derrick. 

Ilion Timber, 16 x 60 j-ton hand derrick. 

Little Falls Timber, 32 x 150 15-ton electric steel derrick, 2-ton 

portable steam crane, i-ton 
hand derrick. 

Lockport (upper) Timber, 32 x 100 i-ton hand derrick. 

Lockport (lower) Timber, 32 x 100 i-ton hand derrick, 15- ton hand 

derrick, 2-ton portable steam 

Lyons Timber, 32 x 50. 

Mechanicville. . . Timber, 16 x 30 i-ton hand derrick. 

Medina Timber, 24 x 70 i-ton hand derrick. 

Oswego (lake) i-ton portable steam crane. 

Oswego (river) . . Timber, 32 x 50. 


Port Henry Timber, 16 x 30. 

Rochester Timber, 32 x 200 2-ton portable steam crane, 8-ton 

fixed steam derrick. 

Rome Timber, 32 x 200 1 5-ton electric steel derrick, i-ton 

hand derrick, j-ton conveyor. 

Rouses Point. 

Schenectady. . . . Timber, 16 x 100 i-ton hand derrick, i-ton port- 
able electric conveyor, 2 2-ton 
portable steam cranes. 


Spencerport. . . . Timber, 16 x 30 i-ton hand derrick. 

St. Johnsville. 

Syracuse Timber, 32 x 200 Four i-ton electric derricks, 2 

2-ton portable steam cranes. 

Thomson One i-ton electric package freight 


N. Tonawanda. . Timber, 24 x 100 15-ton hand steel derrick. 

Tonawanda Timber, 32 x 80 2-ton portable steam crane. 

Troy (lower) Timber (2), 16 x 50, 32 x 100 Two 5-ton hand derricks, 2 2-ton 

steam cranes. 

Utica Timber, 32 x 200 Two i-ton hand derricks. 

Waterford One i-ton hand derrick. 


Weedsport Timber, 16 x 30. 

Whitehall Concrete and steel, 33 x 114. 15-ton hand steel derrick, 2-ton 

portable steel crane. 

* The terminal at Schuylerville is located on a branch of the unimproved Champlain canal and 
is available only for the use of craft of the ordinary canal boat type. 

284 History of the. Barge Canal 

" Railroad connections will be found at the following terminals : 

" At Erie Basin, Buffalo, with the New York Central Railroad 
Company ; 

" At Rochester, with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company ; 

" At Syracuse, with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R. 
R. Co.; 

" At Schenectady, with the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Com- 

" At Troy, with the New York Central R. R. Co., and Boston 
& Maine R. R. Co. ; 

"At Albany, with the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Company; 

" At Oswego, with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Rail- 
road Company." 

Only two Barge canal contracts were awarded during 1920. One 
was for a dam across the old canal at Rochester and the other was 
for widening the channel between Crocker's Reef and Fort Edward. 
But several pieces of terminal work were put under contract. 
Among them were freight-houses at Gowanus bay and Mott Haven, 
both in New York, and at Rochester ; also plumbing and a water- 
supply system and certain electrical work at Greenpoint, and paving 
and a heating system at West 53d street, both in New York city. 
Besides these there were contracts for storage yards and for 
freight-handling machinery at Erie basin, Buffalo, for a dockwall 
at Ohio basin, Buffalo, for completing certain Rochester terminal 
work, for protecting breakwaters at the Cleveland terminal, for 
completing the Rouses Point terminal and for foundations for the 
grain elevators at Gowanus bay and Oswego. 

In 1 92 1 a small amount of canal work was in progress. At 
Tonawanda the brieve carrying the main street over the canal was 
completed and thrown open to traffic. At Rochester the work in 
Genesee Valley park was finished and the deep cut to the east was 
protected with heavy wash wall. A bridge across the short level 
in this vicinity was raised to overcome a difficulty caused by surges 
due to lockages on so short a level. A concrete spillway was built 
in the Oswego river below Fulton to take the place of a dike washed 
away during a flood because the river channel had been too narrowly 
constricted by a privately-owned raceway. Efforts were continued 
in trying to stop a leak around the end of the Seneca Falls dam. 
This leak had been very troublesome during most of the time 
since the dam was completed. Early in 1921 the water was drawn 
and the bank was examined for a considerable distance. It 

Cemal and Terminal Construction 283 

appeared that there were a number of seams in the rock where 
water entered. The whole bank was blanketed with material 
obtained near by. The leak diminished but was not entirely 

In terminal construction there was considerable activity during 
1921. One additional appropriation was made by the Legislature 
— a fund of $490,000 for continuing work at Rochester. The list 
of places where work was in progress includes Erie and Ohio 
basins at Buffalo, Rochester, Qeveland, Cohoes, Troy, Rouses Point 
and the following terminals in New York city: West 53d street, 
Mott Haven, Flushing, Hallets Cove, Green point and Gowanus bay. 

Plans had been nearly perfected during 1920 for grain elevators 
at Gowanus bay and Oswego. The Legislature of 1921 appropriated 
$1,950,000 for the Gowanus bay structure, this being the remainder 
of the sum set as the cost by the authorizing law, but for the 
Oswego elevator there was no money forthcoming. At Oswego 
therefore nothing beyond building the foundations could be done, 
but at Gowanus bay the house and bins were begun after the founda- 
tions were finished and were so nearly completed by the end of the 
year that State Engineer Williams could report to the Legislature 
that, barring unforeseen hindrances, the elevator would be ready 
for use early in the following svmimer. 

In his annual report for 1921 the State Engineer again asked 
for Federal cooperation at the canal termini, but by this time tte 
appeal had changed its form somewhat. At Tonawanda large boats 
found it difficult to pass from the Niagara river into the canal and 
it was desired that the Government should deepen and straighten 
the channel. At Oswego the State had excavated a twelve-foot 
channel from the end of the canal to deep water in the lake, but 
a channel deep enough to allow lake vessels to reach the terminal 
constructed by the State on the lake shore was needed and it was 
considered that the Government should excavate this channel. At 
Whitehall the Federal authorities had done some work in deepening 
and straightening the channel at the upper end of Lake Champlain, 
but not enough had yet been done. At Waterford an outlet of 
Barge canal dimensions had been provided, but a channel of suffi- 
cient size was desirable to permit large vessels to reach Troy or 
Albany for the transfer of canal and ocean cargoes, and this work 
came under United States jurisdiction. 

During 11921 night travel on the canal increased in large measure. 
Four hundred lights were added to the navigation aids. In the 
earlier years it had not been deemed necessary to light more than 

286 HistoTif of the Barge Canal 

the river channels, but n.ow the land lines also were supplied with 
markers, in order to remove all hindrances to navigation by night. 
The good effect of this policy was apparent. The year showed a 
marked improvement in the running time of navigators. Greater 
familiarity with the canal as well as better facilities helped toward 
this result, but a general increase in speed was noticeable. Fleets 
were making the trip from Buffalo to Troy in less than five days 
and the round trip from Lake Erie to New York and return in 
fourteen days. 

The interest which Governor Miller showed in canal affairs was 
unusual for a chief executive of the State. During the summer 
of 1921 he took a trip over the canals and spent sufficient time in 
doing this to become familiar with all the essential details. In the 
party were the Governor, members of the Board of Estimate and 
Control, State Engineer Williams, Superintendent of Public Works 
Cadle and other State officials. The inspection began with the 
terminals at New York city and extended to Buffalo. The speeches 
which Governor Miller has made on canal matters, especially in 
opposition to the St. Lawrence ship canal project, show that he has 
a clear and broad understanding of the whole situation, doubtless 
gleaned in part through his personal inspection of the canal system. 
These utterances have been a valuable asset both for gaining friends 
and users for the canal and for defeating the rival project. Also 
the publicity given the Governor's trip had a salutary effect on the 
people of the communities visited — in bringing the importance of 
the waterway pointedly to their attention. 

The Barge canal contracts let in 1921 included one for doing 
some excavating and filling at Seneca Falls, one for a concrete 
spillway below the lower lock at Fulton, one for raising a bridge 
near Rochester and one for removing material from the canal prism 
near HoUey. The terminal contracts awarded during the year 
covered work chiefly at New York city and Rochester. At Roch- 
ester there was provision for a permanent freight-house, with con- 
tracts for heating and plumbing, and also for a frame structure, 
designated a temporary freight-house, and a contract for an 
approach to the terminal. At New York there were contracts for 
heating, plimibing, water-supply, certain electrical equipment and 
two 3-ton jib cranes at Gowanus bay and one 3-ton burtoning crane 
at Mott Haven. The largest terminal contract of the year was for 
the grain elevator at Gowanus. Aside from New York and 
Rochester the only new contract was for a house and gravel surfac- 
ing at the terminal at Brockport. 

Canal and Terminal Construction 287 

In this account of canal and terminal construction the record 
has been carried beyond the time of virtual completion of the canal 
project. Terminals of course are adjuncts which may be annexed 
to a waterway singly or at any time without greatly affecting the 
canal at large, and since the terminals for the Barge canal were 
begun much later than the channel and moreover certain terminal 
features have been added but recently, their construction is being 
protracted beyond the canal construction period. The whole length 
of the canal was open for traffic on May 15, 1918. Not every last 
thing, however, relating to even the channel itself was completed 
at that time, but there was nothing which would prevent full and 
free navigation. For a year or so afterward the uncompleted work 
was being finished and since then a few improvements and certain 
incidental work have been in progress, their purpose being to 
furnish that which experience has dictated as adding to navigation 


Power Development of Canal Waters — Charting Canal Waters — Blue Line 
Surveys — Sale of Abandoned Canal Lands — Sale of Appropriated but 
Unnecessary Lands — Sale and Use of Excavated Materials — Rome- 
Mohawk Section — Cemetery Lands — Advisory Board Abolished — Toll 
Bridges — Retention of Old Canal near Waterford; also near Schuyler- 
ville — Maintenance Equipment — Reorganization of Operating Forces — 
Prize Lock — Maintenance of Rochester-Lockport Water Level — Pro- 
tective Laws — State Towage — Faithful Performance Bonds — Con- 
tracts under War Conditions — Terminal and Navigation Rules — At- 
tempted Federal Jurisdiction — Reorganization of Engineer's Department 
— Terminal Organization — Terminal Charges — Amendments to Ter- 
minal Law — Wharfage Fees Remitted — " Finish the Job." 

AT THE beginning of Barge canal construction there were 
many questions to be decided besides those deaUng with the 
proper design of channel and structures and the multitude 
of similar matters of a more or less technical character. In our 
study of the canal these other topics, which are concerned with 
policies, methods and the like, are treated apart from events which 
have had to do more particularly with the work of actual con- 
struction. While the larger questions of policy and procedure 
necessarily had to be decided early in canal construction, there have 
been niunerous matters of similar nature throughout the whole 
period of building the canal. These later subjects make up the 
present chapter and of necessity they are not very closely connected. 

Of the later policies the first in point of time to be considered 
by canal officials was that of developing and disposing of power 
which might be derived from surplus canal waters. As a matter 
of fact this problem received attention almost as soon as construc- 
tion began, but its solution is an event of very recent date, if 
indeed it can be said to have been fully and finally solved. 

As early as 1905 State Engineer Van Alstyne called the attention 
of the Legislature to the possibility of developing power at the 
many dams which would be built in canal construction. In the 
past the State had built dams for its canals and at these dams water- 
power worth millions of dollars in the aggregate had been gener- 
ated, but in nearly every instance it had been private individuals 

[288 J 

Later Policies 289 

or corporations that had acquired possession .of the power rights 
and had used them without making any adequate return to the 
State. It was to prevent such an outcome with respect to potential 
Barge canal water-power that the State Engineer made his appeal 
to the Legislature, counseling a careful guarding of the State's 

Through all of the years from this first recommendation until 
1921, when a State water-power policy was adopted, this question 
of utilizing surplus waters has been most prolific of thought and 
discussion. In nearly every annual report the State Engineer has 
given it lengthy consideration, while the Superintendent of Public 
Works has discussed it in many of his reports. Not only these 
officials but others have grappled with the problem, or rather with 
the larger problem of which the canal question is simply a part. 
This larger problem — the whole broad subject of utilizing the 
State's available water-power in general — was under consideration 
and many persons were trying to evolve a policy which would 
safeguard the State's interests and at the same time would be fair 
to power companies and also present opportunities sufficiently attrac- 
tive for the companies to accept. Furthermore, water-power utili- 
zation is in turn only a part of the still larger problem of conserv- 
ing all natural sources of energy. The days of canal construction 
have been also the days when the theory of conservation of natural 
resources has found ready acceptance and general recognition among 
us. Since, therefore, such far-reaching and all-important questions 
were more or less at stake in the proper solution of the canal water- 
power problem, it is scarcely to be wondered at that progress has 
been slow. In 1907 the Legislature provided by chapter 494, which 
became section 16 of the Barge canal law, that canal waters should 
not be leased, sold or otherwise disposed of until the canal should 
be completed nor thereafter until authorized by a statute which 
should specify conditions and restrictions to govern such lease or 

In 1909 another amendment to the Barge canal act (chapter 273) 
empowered the State Engineer to take possession of lands, struc- 
tures and waters " for the utilization and full control by the State 
of the waters impounded, created and to be discharged as the result 
of the construction of any dam, mole, reservoir or other structure 
as part of the improved canal system." This amendment was 
evidently in response to a recommendation by Superintendent of 
Public Works Stevens, its purpose being to provide for the acquisi- 


290 History of the Barge Canal 

tion of whatever was essential to the complete control by the State 
of its canal waters. 

In 1909 State Engineer Williams advised action which would 
allow the use of about six thousand horse-power at each of two 
large Barge canal dams, those at Vischer Ferry and Crescent, which 
would go to waste for several years if not utilized till the whole 
canal should be completed. The cities near these dams took up 
this cry and for years the Capitol District, as it is called, echoed the 
demands for power from these sources. 

In the official recommendations of recent years there is apparent 
a deeper appreciation of the need of solving the whole water-power 
problem .of the State rather than the canal question alone. Thus 
we read in State Engineer Williams' annual report for 1917, 
" State officials and others who have given the subject some thought 
agree that a strong, definite policy should be adopted in treating the 
broad question of power development and flood control in the 
rivers and streams of the state. I am strongly of the opinion that 
the State should not embark in any proposition of this nature 
or become a party to any undertaking until the many varied and 
complex problems which are involved have been approached from 
all angles and solved in such a way as to insure the greatest ultimate 
benefit to both the State at large and its citizens." 

But in spite of these evidences of a general realization of both 
the complexities of the problem and the need of a complete water- 
power policy, the canal officials and the public at large appear to 
have been impatient at delay and continued to urge the immediate 
use of canal waters. And their reasoning seems good. The dams 
were already built and the power was going to waste. As Mr. 
Williams pointed out, long-term leases could be so drawn that they 
would safeguard canal interests, allow the use of surplus waters, 
thus assuring additional State revenue as well as additional power 
for industrial purposes, and at the same time not interfere with any 
general water-power policy the State might thereafter adopt. 

A list of Barge canal water-power possibilities, compiled by the 
Superintendent of Public Works and published in his 1919 annual 
leport, shows the following conditions: At Crescent, Vischer 
Ferry, Rocky Rift, Caughdenoy, Cayuga, Clyde, Lock No. i on 
the Champlain canal and Crocker's Reef the State .owns the whole 
flow of the streams, but no development has been made. At Fulton 
the flow is owned partly by the State and partly by outside parties 
and the power has been developed. At Minetto the State owns 

Later Policies 291 

the eastern half of the river's flow and the western half is developed. 
At High dam, near Oswego, the flow is owned by the State, but 
has been applied for by the city of Oswego ; the power has not been 
developed here. At Rochester the flow from the canal into the 
Genesee river and certain rights in the river are owned by the 
State; the power has been developed. At Medina the flow is owned 
by the State, but its use interferes with navigation interests; the 
power is developed. At Lockport the flow is now under lease and 
permit to water-power users; power has been developed here. At 
Northumberland one-half of the river flow is owned by the State 
and there is a partial development at this location. At Whitehall 
the whole flow is owned by the State and power has been developed. 
In 1 92 1 the State adopted a definite water-power policy, largely 
through the efforts of Governor Miller. The new law created a 
Water Power Commission and gave this Commission the authority 
to issue licenses for the development of power at places where the 
State owns the power rights, the license carrying with it the privi- 
lege of using such water-power upon the payment of equitable 
rental. The enactment by Congress of the so-called Federal Water 
Power Commission bill made the speedy adoption of a State policy 
almost imperative and probably had considerable influence on State 
action at that time. The original law placed Barge canal power proj- 
ects under the jurisdiction of the new Commission, but required that 
before any of them could be developed the Superintendent of Pub- 
lic Works must certify that such development could be accom- 
plished without detriment to transportation on the canal. Applica- 
tions were made to the Water Power Commission for privileges to 
develop certain Barge canal powers, but the Superintendent would 
not make the necessary certificate to allow the applicants to pro- 
ceed. He took the stand that the execution of a certificate of this 
character would constitute a relinquishment to other agencies of 
that control of canal waters wliich is essential for carrying out 
the duties and obligations imposed upon the Superintendent of 
Public Works by the Constitution and the statutes of the State. 
It would be better, he held, that canal waters should run to waste 
than that commerce should be crippled. The experience of the 
past had shown that, once privileges to use canal waters had been 
granted, even under provisions of revocation, it was next to impos- 
sible to discontinue or restrict such use. Since the development of 
canal water-powers was thus blocked, the Legislature of 1922 took 
the control of canal power sites out of the hands of the Commission 
and gave it to the Superintendent of Public Works. The new act 

292 History) of the Barge Canal 

constituted a State policy, applying to all potential power develop- 
ments of canal waters. To begin the work one millon dollars were 
appropriated for building power plants at the Crescent and Vischer 
P'erry dams. Under the act the Superintendent is empowered to 
sell any surplus electric current not needed by the canal or State 
structures adjacent to the canal. 

The next subject to engage our attention is that of making 
charts of the canalized lakes and rivers which form so large a 
part of the Barge canal system. In 1909 State Engineer Williams 
told the Legislature that the time had come when provision should 
be made for preparing and printing such charts, since canal traffic 
would soon be turned into certain river channels. So radical were 
the changes in navigation in the new canal that it was absolutely 
necessary that boatmen should have charts. The Barge canal law 
contained no authorization for making charts and so the State 
Engineer recommended action on the part of the Legislature. A 
bill for this piupose in the 1910 Legislature failed of passage. In 
his report of this year Mr. Williams again referred to the subject, 
but recommended that attempt be made to induce the United States 
to undertake the work. This recommendation was heartily seconded 
by a similar one from the Superintendent of Public Works in his 
report of the same year. The Barge canal adjoins Federal waters 
at so many places that a uniformity in charts was deemed advisable 
and moreover the United States already had an organization, 
called the Lakes Survey, at work charting the adjacent Government 
waters, and it was the extension of this survey to cover navigable 
lakes and rivers of the State waterways that Mr. Williams was 
seeking. State Engineer Bensel continued this policy and in 1911 
secured Federal cooperation. As a result the Government has made 
surveys and prepared and printed charts and offered them for sale, 
just as it has done with respect to Federal waters. These charts, 
however, include only such parts of the canal as lie in waters 
which are considered naturally navigable, but even at that they 
cover a large portion of the State waterway. But later other 
charts were issued by the Superintendent of Public Works. In 
1 91 5 he found it necessary to do considerable work in marking the 
river channels by buoys and lights and in the same year he began 
making charts, these showing particularly the location of each light, 
buoy or other marker. This work he continued until the whole 
extent of the canal was covered, land lines as well as river channels. 

Later Policies 293 

An important policy adopted in 1909 was that of making what 
are known as " blue line " surveys. On the maps of the original 
State canals the line showing the boundaries of lands acquired by 
the State for its canals was shown in blue ink. The custom of 
referring to this as the blue line is now of such long-standing that 
the term has come to be synonymous with canal land boundary line. 

It was on the recommendation of State Engineer Williams that 
this blue line policy was adopted. In 1909 he suggested it. Since 
the State owned valuable property within these lines and the descrip- 
tions of much adjacent property depended on them and since also 
it would be almost impossible to retrace the lines after old canal 
banks and structures should be obliterated, the need of immediate 
action was apparent and the Legislature responded to the appeal 
and made an appropriation to begin the surveys. 

In reporting on this work Mr. Williams said in his 1910 annual 
report : " In response to my suggestions you made appropriation to 
begin this work, and most wisely, it seems to me, for the need was 
very urgent. When it is realized that never, until the beginning 
of Barge canal operations, have State canal property lines been 
suitably monumented and that in many places no map since that 
of 1834 may be relied upon as authoritative in courts of law, the 
importance of the work is appreciated. When it is further real- 
ized that the State lands within these bounds have become very 
valuable in many localities and that much valuable adjacent prop- 
erty depends on these same lines for description or starting point, 
and that an alteration or destruction of existing canal banks and 
structures, before the ' blue line ' should be rerun, would doubtless 
result in endless litigation and probable loss to the State, the 
necessity for continuing this work to the end will be seen." 

As funds have become available from time to time these blue 
line surveys have progressed. They are as yet not entirely com- 
pleted. After surveys have been made, maps have been prepared, 
and these maps have been submitted to the Canal Board for 

Closely connected with the subject of surveying canal property, 
lines is that of disposing of such of the property itself as would 
not be needed for canal purposes after the new canal should be 
put in full operation. The need of proper legislation to provide 
for the sale of these old canal lands seems to have been brought to 
public attention first by Superintendent of Public Works Treman 
in his annual report of 191 1. The State Constitution prohibits 

294 Hisiors of the Barge Canal 

the sale of the canals, but under the Public Lands law the dis- 
posal of lands no longer necessary for the canal was permitted and 
for years such lands had been disposed of, only small parcels, 
however, ever having been involved. But it was considered that 
the law as it stood did not apply to long stretches of canal, and 
the portions of canal which eventually would be abandoned be- 
cause of new alignment were long in extent, hundreds of miles in 

Aside from the value of these lands and the advisability of put- 
ting them to some use, it was not wise for the State to be under 
the expense of maintenance or to be liable for damage suits, which 
were sure to come, or for the menace to health which an unused 
channel would probably cause. 

For several years the Superintendent reiterated his recommend- 
dation and the State Engineer joined him in advocating the policy. 
In 1914 legislation was introduced but not passed. In 1916, how- 
ever, the Public Lands law was amended (by chapter 299) and 
thereafter the Commissioners of the Land Office could dispose of 
such portions of the old canal lands as the canal officials had 
formally declared to be of no further use for canal purposes. Con- 
siderable amounts of these abandoned lands have already been sold. 
The stretches in the cities have been bought largely by the cities 
themselves and have brought good prices, the city of Rochester 
for example paying more than a million and a half dollars for 
wliat it secured. A plan has been adopted of dividing the land 
into parcels of such extent as best to fit the needs of prospective 
buyers, in order, if possible, to sell all the parcels and leave no iso- 
lated pieces in possession of the State. 

There were other canal lands, however, for which legislative 
provision had to be made. In 1909 an amendment to the Barge 
canal law (by chapter 244) provided that in the event any piece of 
land appropriated for Barge canal purposes should be found not to 
be necessary for such purpose, after certain procedure it should 
be returned to the owner from whom it had been taken, together 
with a quit-claim deed. The terminal law was amended in like 
manner by chapter 488 of the laws of 1915. 

In addition to lands the State occasionally came into possession, 
by reason of new canal construction, of certain materials for which 
it had no use. An amendment (chapter 320, Laws of 1909) to 
the Barge canal law permitted the Superintendent of Public Works 
to sell " any materials found in deposit or otherwise during the 

Later Policies 295 

progress of the improvement." In 191 5 (by chapter 570) this 
amendment was added to and the Superintendent was authorized to 
allow any county, city, village or town to remove these materials 
encountered in canal excavation and use them for constructing or 
repairing highways without compensation to the State. 

One portion of superseded canal which has given rise to con- 
siderable legislation and also to several constitutional amendments 
is that lying between Rome and the village of Mohawk. By pro- 
vision in the terminal act this stretch was to be retained as a part 
of the terminal system. It was to be kept in a navigable state, but 
the size of its channel was not to be increased. New junction 
locks at either end, however, were made necessary. After these 
locks were built and the new canal in this vicinity was in use, it 
was attempted to keep open this old section of canal under the new 
conditions. But this attempt was unsuccessful and the reason was 
that sufficient water to fill it was not available. At least it was 
not available from the existing source of supply. The old canal 
level between Utica and Syracuse was a summit level, which was 
fed principally from the Adirondack reservoir supply, coming in at 
Rome, and from the reservoirs south of the canal and west of 
Rome. The new channel crosses the old canal at Rome, but its 
surface is several feet lower than that of the old waterway. Thus 
the sole feeder ,of the thirty-mile stretch of old channel between 
Rome and Mohawk was Oriskany creek, and the flow in this 
stream would not fill the canal to a navigable depth. After nearly 
two months of vain endeavor to fill the canal, men having been 
stationed continuously at the feeder gates and every device for 
husbanding the supply having been tried, the Superintendent of 
Public Works came to the conclusion that the task was physically 
impossible and called upon the State Engineer to study the situa- 
tion and suggest a remedy. From his study the State Engineer 
determined that the flow which might be expected from Oriskany 
creek was entirely inadequate and other means must be found to 
supply the need. Two methods were suggested. One was for 
electrical pumps at Rome, water to be pumped from the new chan- 
nel. This scheme was estimated to cost $30,000 for installation 
and $22,000 yearly for operation. The other method was the use 
of a dive culvert under the new canal at Rome, connecting the 
stretch of old canal in question and another portion of old canal 
which extends to the west on the other side of the new channel. 
This section of old canal to the west, now joined to the new canal 

296 Hhlory of the Barge Canal 

by a junction lock, is being retained for two reasons — it is needed 
to connect the Black River canal with the new waterway and also 
it brings part of the Adirondack water-supply. The probable cost 
of the proposed culvert was set at $50,000. 

To complicate the situation two other factors had entered into 
the problem. Eight lift-bridges spanned the old canal in Utica 
and one in Ilion. Previous to 19 17 all save one of these bridges 
had been operated at the expense of the municipalities, but because 
of the wording of the terminal law, which reads, " The present 
Erie canal between Rome and Mohawk shall be retained at not 
less than its present dimensions, and all structures, locks, bridges 
and docks thereon shall be maintained and operated by the State 
for terminal purposes," the city of Utica refused longer to pay 
these operating expenses. To assume this burden meant an added 
$5,000 of annual State expense. 

The second factor was a proposed constitutional amendment 
which would permit the disposal pf the old canal between Schuyler 
and Third streets, Utica, provided a sufficient flow of water should 
be maintained between these points to feed the portion of old canal 
lying to the east. In the form of a concurrent resolution this propo- 
sition had been passed by the 191 7 Legislature, even before the 
problem of feeding the Rome-Mohawk stretch had much more 
than presented itself. 

The Legislature of 191 8 appropriated $20,000 for the culvert 
under the new canal at Rome and this sum, together with $30,000 
contributed by interested industrial companies, built the structure. 
This Legislature also passed the proposed constitutional amendment 
the second time necessary for bringing it to vote before the people 
and in the following fall it was approved by popular vote. 

Later the State Engineer and the Superintendent of Public 
W^orks submitted to the Canal Board the requisite statutory cer- 
tificates declaring that the Schuyler-Third street section was no 
longer needed for navigation, but the Board took no action on the 
matter, since it appeared that the constitutional amendment merely 
gave to the Legislature the right to amend or repeal the section in 
the terminal law which provided for the retention of the canal. 
While that law stood in its existing form the Canal Board had no 
authority to abandon any of the old canal between Rome and 
Mohawk. The Board held public hearings, however, and at these 
the abandonment of the whole stretch from Rome to Mohawk was 
urged. This subject came before the 1920 Legislature, but instead 

Later Policies 297 

of an amendment to the terminal act a measure was passed (chap- 
ter 744) which autliorized the city of Utica to lower or remove 
any or all of the three bridges in the Schuyler-Third street section 
and to construct a conduit in the bed of the canal between Schuy- 
ler and Third streets. The work the city did under authority of 
this law constituted in effect, though not in fact, an abandonment 
of the old canal in Utica. 

The Legislature of 1920 also took action looking toward the 
abandonment of the whole Rome-Mohawk section of the old canal. 
By concurrent resolutions it provided for two constitutional amend- 
ments. One proposed to permit the sale or other disposition of the 
portion lying between the village of Mohawk and the Herkimer- 
Oneida county line, while the other would allow such sale of the 
entire stretch between Rome and Mohawk. The second proposi- 
tion of course made the first unnecessary, but notwithstanding this 
fact the Legislature .of 1921 approved both of these proposed 
amendments and at the general election of that year the people in 
turn gave their approval. The Legislature of 1922 duly passed a 
law (chapter 341) amending the terminal act by omitting the clause 
which retained the Rome-Mohawk section for terminal purposes. 
Accordingly this portion of the .old canal now passes out of use 
along with nearly all of the waterway which formerly ran beside 
the Mohawk river from Cohoes to Rome. 

Another type of land for which provision had to be made was 
the cemetery. In acquiring the lands necessary for an enterprise 
of such magnitude as the Barge canal, especially for its great reser- 
voirs, covering miles of territory, here and there were included 
small areas which had been used as burial grounds. Often these 
were isolated and unused, the family burial-plots, perhaps deserted 
and forgotten, standing in the midst of cultivated field or broad 
meadow. Still each one, however small or neglected, was God's 
acre and as such was properly protected by law. The State could 
not with propriety flood such lands, whether small family plots or 
larger cemeteries, or sink them beneath the waters of a new lake 
without first removing whatever remains were there interred. An 
amendment (chapter 63, Laws of 1910) to the Barge canal law 
provided, therefore, that wherever it became necessary in canal 
construction to acquire and use such burial grounds the State 
should remove the bodies found therein to other plots, to be acquired 
for the purpose, and that the title to such new lands should be 
transferred to the persons, corporations or municipalities owning 

298 History of the Barge Canal 

the plots in which the remains were originally buried. If persons 
having a right to the disposition of bodies desired to reinter them 
in plots of their own choosing, they were permitted to do this, but 
without expense to the State. 

With the coming of a different political party into State public 
affairs in 191 1 several changes in canal administration were made. 
Among them was the abolition of the Advisory Board of Con- 
sulting Engineers. This Board, it will be recalled, was created by 
the original Barge canal act and moreover by an amendment to this 
act provision was made to perpetuate the Board to the end of canal 
construction. But the Legislature of 191 1 (by chapter 736) abol- 
ished the Board and in its stead the State Engineer was authorized 
to employ from time to time, with the approval of the Governor, 
one or more consulting engineers. The reason given for this action 
was that canal work would be expedited and the new system 
would operate to the advantage of the State, because the consulting 
engineers would perform their duties under the direction of the 
State Engineer and would be available for consultation at all times. 
In his appointment of consulting engineers Mr. Bensel retained 
two members of the Advisory Board and named three new men. In 
the working out of this law it has happened that generally one con- 
sulting engineer has been employed for full-time service and the 
others have been called for special occasions of a few days dura- 
tion each, being paid only for the time they have actually served. 

Several laws enacted in 1913, 1914 and 1915 call for brief atten- 
tion. In attempting to appropriate certain toll bridges over the 
Mohawk river below Vischer Ferry the State was involved in liti- 
gation which caused delay and also made necessary the construc- 
tion of a temporary lock at the north end of Vischer Ferry dam, 
at a cost of $163,000, in order to maintain navigation. A law 
passed at the extraordinary legislative session of 1913 (chapter 
801) directed the Superintendent of Public Works to take posses- 
sion of such toll bridges as had to be altered or rebuilt in canal 
construction and to acquire also the franchises connected with 
these bridges. If a new bridge were to be built to take the place of 
any of these toll bridges, it should be maintained by the State and 
become a free public bridge. 

By another law of 1913 (chapter 243) the .old canal from Water- 
ford to lock No. 2 was to be retained as part of the canal system. 
Included in the retained channel was the portion of the Cham- 
plain canal from its junction with the Barge canal at Waterford 

Later Policies 299 

southerly to its junction with the unimproved Erie canal; also the. 
old Erie from this junction southerly to lock No. 2, and in addi- 
tion what were known as the Watervliet basin and the Watervliet 
and Port Schuyler side-cuts. 

Provision was made for retaining the old Champlain canal be- 
tween Schuylerville and Northumberland by chapter 412, Laws of 
1 91 4. The portion affected extended from a point immediately 
south of the Schuylerville waste- weir northerly to a connection 
with the Barge canal just north of the Barge canal lock at North- 
umberland. This stretch of old canal was intended to serve Schuy- 
lerville as a terminal, having been chosen by the citizens in lieu of 
the ordinary type of terminal. The guard-lock needed at the 
north end of this section was paid for out of the terminal fund. It 
will be noticed that by this choice no boats larger than those of 
old canal dimensions can reach Schuylerville. 

When sections of new canal, especially the canalized river chan- 
nels, were put in use, the Superintendent of Public Works found 
himself confronted with many new problems. The maintenance of 
the improved canals differed widely from that of the old water- 
ways. Among the laws of 1914 was one (chapter 144) which 
appropriated funds for the purchase of new machinery for the 
work of maintenance; also one (chapter 145) which provided for 
building extra lock-gates to be ready in case of emergency. In the 
same year we find the Superintendent saying in his annual report 
that there were needed for maintenance four steel tugs, four sets 
of steel pontoons for raising sunken boats, six new repair shops, 
six dry docks, gantry tracks above the lower gates of all high 
lift locks, six sets of portable gantry tracks for handling smaller 
gates, hydraulic dredges for the river sections and a fund lor 
painting bridges and other steel structures. In 191 5 the Legis- 
lature furnished part of this equipment. By chapter 708 funds 
were supplied for some of the pontoons and cranes and for paint- 
ing. The maintenance equipment, however, has not kept pace 
with the needs of the canal. All the recent reports of the Super- 
intendent have contained appeals for better apparatus. The State 
equipment, he has said, is sadly inadequate and out of date. It 
has been necessary often to rent machinery from contractors and 
such practice is condemned as unbusiness-like and unduly expensive. 

In 191 5 the political complexion of the State government was 
again changed. To the office of Superintendent of Public Works 
came Gen. W. W. Wotherspoon, who brought to the department a 

300 History of the Barge Canal 

wide experience in army aflFairs. Several innovations were made 
at this time. One of the first things to engage Mr. Wothergpoon's 
attention was the personnel of the canal operating forces. It had 
been realized for some time that the old type of lock operator would 
not serve the new need. Lock-tenders they had been called and the 
very difference in name is significant. The old locks did not 
demand any very high order of mentality or mechanical ability, 
and as the positions had generally been treated simply as political 
jobs, rewards for service to the party in power, the usual lock- 
tender had been an unskilled man, often an old man, and his ap- 
pointment was for .only one navigation season. There were also 
other, canal positions which required no more ability and much the 
same type of individual had filled them. The positions which 
called for skilled labor, however, and there were many of them, 
had of course been filled with a higher type of man. But in large 
measure canal operating forces had been organized on the basis of 
unskilled labor and of employment during only a little more than 
half the year. 

The new locks and other structures, with all their intricate elec- 
trical machinery, required skilled operators. How the change was 
made and how it resulted is told by Gen. Wotherspoon in his 
annual report to the Legislature. He said: 

" Already there has been brought to the attention of your hon- 
orable body by my predecessor, the necessity of placing the new 
locks, with their extensive operating apparatus, in the hands of 
men familiar with machinery and who could be relied upon to 
take prompt action in cases of emergency. It also has been 
pointed out to you that the people of the State may receive the full 
benefit of the new waterway only through its efficient operation; 
and such may be had only by some guarantee of a tenure of office 
to those found to be efficient and experienced. With the placing 
under the charge of this Department of many additional new locks 
for operation, the importance of securing an efficient operating force 
was manifest. Early in the year, therefore, the Civil Service G)m- 
mission was consulted with the residt that examinations were de- 
vised for the positions to be filled on the new locks and the holding 
of such examinations was widely advertised. The results obtained 
are most satisfactory. The new locks are now manned by young 
men, skilled in the various mechanical trades, and in addition to 
the safe and proper operation of the lock machinery, are able to 
make the repairs needed from time to time without any additional 
cost to the State. The change in the personnel of this branch of 

Later Policies 301 

the service has been much appreciated by canal users as naviga- 
tion ,of the canal and the use of the locks has been placed on a 
definite and precise business basis. It is my belief that at the 
present time, the lock organization of this Department, man for 
man, is equal in ability to any similar force in the employ of any 
corporation or great business enterprise." 

Another innovation was the prize lock. At the beginning of the 
1915 navigation season a prize was offered to the crew of that lock 
which at the close of the season should have attained the highest 
excellence in the condition of the operating machinery and the 
appearance of the structure and grounds. The prize consisted in a 
small increase in salary to each man and the distinction of erecting 
a sign proclaiming it the prize lock, both of these privileges to be 
retained for only one year unless the same crew won again the next 
season. The plan was most successful. The machinery was kept 
in perfect condition and the surroundings were beautified, unsightly 
banks and the debris incidental to construction having disappeared. 
This plan has been continued and has worked out to the benefit of 
the State. 

Upon assuming office Gen. Wotherspoon found that an unfavor- 
able condition existed with regard to supplying the Rochester- 
Lockport level with sufficient water for navigation. Until the new 
channel should be completed and the supply could be taken from 
the Niagara river at Tonawanda the water had to come from Lake 
Erie and pass through the unimproved channel between Buffalo and 
Tonawanda in such quantity as to fill the enlarged prism from 
Tonawanda to Soutli Greece, about seventy-three miles distant from 
the source of supply. To aggravate the difficulty there were fac- 
tories along this stretch which depended more or less on canal 
water for power. While Gen. Wotherspoon appreciated the im- 
portance of manufacturing, he considered that his first duty to the 
State was to insure water for navigation. Accordingly he adopted 
a new policy ; he placed the matter of maintaining the proper depth 
of water in this level in the hands of a single official who was 
answerable only to the Superintendent, and he gave strict orders 
that no water was to be diverted from the canal except with the 
knowledge and consent of the Albany office. The result was that 
for the first time in several years no complaints of insufficient depth 
were received from the boatmen. 

Gen. Wotherspoon succeeded in having two important laws passed 
in 1915. These had been suggested by his predecessor. Superin- 
tendent Peck, just before he vacated the office. One (chapter 448) 

302 History of the Barge Canal 

made it a felony for any person without authority of law wilfully 
to inflict an injury upon any part of the canal system or to tam- 
per in any manner with the machinery or apparatus connected with 
any mechanical structure. The other (chapter 491) declared it a 
misdemeanor for anyone without authority to remove any timber or 
growing things or materials from State land or to erect any build- 
ing thereon. In the past the Superintendent had found himself 
with little authority to right certain wrongs and these statutes were 
intended to assist him. 

The coming of the Barge canal has marked the end of the cen- 
tury-old custom of animal towage on the New York canals. No 
towing-paths even have been provided on the new waterway, except 
such as were used temporarily during the period of transition. In 
1914 two stretches of new channel which had no towing-paths were 
opened to navigation. One lay in Wayne county, about twenty 
miles in length, and the other was a portion of the Mohawk river 
between Vischer Ferry and Rexford. Being thus isolated, with 
portions of the old canal extending from either end, it was neces- 
sary to provide some means of towing horse-drawn boats across 
these sections, since such craft c.onstittited a large part of the 
shipping then in service. Accordingly the Legislature appropriated 
$40,000 to pay for tugs to do the towing in these sections. In 1915 
the Wayne county portion had been lengthened, but it was still 
isolated. The Mohawk river section had been extended to the 
Hudson river at Waterford and therefore had not the excuse of 
isolation in requiring State towage, but another appropriation was 
made that year and the practice was continued. By 1916 the 
Mohawk river navigation reached from the Hudson to Jacksonburg, 
a distance of eighty-six miles. On the Champlain and Oswego 
canals boatmen had adapted themselves to the new conditions and 
had their own facilities for towage, but on the Erie branch sixty 
per cent of the boats plying on the canal were horse-drawn and 
again the State had to furnish tugs. 

Each year after 1914 and until 1921, except during 1918, when 
the Federal government was in full control of canal transportation, 
the State made provision for towing such boats as had no other 
means of propulsion. In eflEect this was the adoption of a policy, 
although it was done through necessity and not from free choice 
or with the idea that it would be permanent. This action really 
amounted to a canal subsidy, a thing which is acknowledged by 
canal advocates as unwise and also as tending to discourage the 

Later Policies 303 

best kind of private enterprise on the canal. But the State was 
confronted with the alternative ,of providing towage that would 
permit the majority of available canal craft to engage in traffic or 
of declining to do so, with the certainty of depriving the waterway 
of the larger part of its floating equipment and thus denying many 
shippers the advantages of canal transportation and condemning 
the waterway to comparative disuse. It was acknowledged of 
course that a sufficiency of new boats should be put on the canal 
and the State should not be compelled to furnish towage for the 
antiquated craft, but lacking this ideal .only one course seeme4 
open. The venture was not a success financially. For the first 
three years the towage was free and after that time the rates 
charged the boatmen were not sufficient to recompense the State. 
The cost, moreover, was large; as new sections of canal were added 
the amount for towage mounted higher and higher. And after all 
these costly endeavors to favor the owners of old boats there ap- 
pears the prospect that the rate war they are planning will drive 
from the canal the new boats which are being operated by respon- 
sible companies and are giving such class of service as has long 
been the object of earnest seeking. 

In 1921 the practice of State towage was discontinued. The 
experience of the year seemed to show that it had been maintained 
as long as necessary, since no marked detriment to canal traffic 
followed its cessation. 

In 1916 at the suggestion of Superintendent of Public Works 
Wotherspoon a new policy was adopted with reference to the 
amount of security contractors should be required to furnish for 
the faithful and complete performance of their contracts. Orig- 
inally the Barge canal law had fixed the amount as at least twenty- 
five per cent of the bid. By an amendment in 1909 (chapter 267) 
this had been reduced to ten per cent. Experience had shown that 
occasionally the State had lost money by this provision. It had been 
compelled sometimes to complete work which a defaulting con- 
tractor had failed to finish and to do this at a cost greater than the 
contractor's forfeited bond. The law of 1909 specified ten per 
cent as the minimum security and so the Superintendent appealed 
to the Canal Board to fix a larger sum. In response twenty per 
cent was set as the minimum bond for faithful performance of con- 
tracts and under certain circumstances this could be increased to 
fifty per cent. 

The great bulk of canal construction had been completed before 
the! United States entered the World war, but work to the value 

304 History of the Barge Canal 

of about six million dollars was under contract on the day when 
the declaration was made. Almost immediately industrial condi- 
tions began to change and it was with continually increasing diffi- 
culty that the contractors on the Barge canal were able to continue 
their work. It was during this first year after America's entrance 
into the war, it will be recalled, that such strenuous efforts were 
made to complete the channel throughout its entire length for an 
opening to commerce in the spring of 1918. To accomplish this 
desired end the engineers and the contractors worked most zealously 
and the contractors bravely did their part, although they faced the 
certainty of having to bear heavy financial losses. Since the con- 
tractors who had undertaken work before war was declared were 
not responsible for the conditions which ensued and could not 
well have foreseen what was to happen, it was felt quite generally 
that they should not be made to suffer for the benefit of the public 
and therefore relief measures were sought. Thus we find State 
Engineer WilUams making an appeal to the Legislature on behalf 
of Barge canal contractors. 

The Legislature of igi8 responded to this and other like requests 
and passed a law (chapter 585) which recompensed the contractors 
f.or their losses. Not only Barge canal contractors but those on 
other forms of public works were included in the scope of this 
act. We need not consider the details of the law. Its provisions 
were rather intricate and demanded very careful study. Our chief 
interest is in knowing that the State adopted this policy of relief 
toward, the contractors carrying on its public works who were 
caught unawares on April 6, 1917. So far as Barge canal contracts 
were concerned the State Engineer found that virtually the whole 
responsibility for the proper administration of the law devolved 
upon him. 

One of the provisions of the terminal law was that regulations 
f.or the management of the terminals should be prescribed by the 
Canal Board and enforced by the Superintendent of Public Works. 
Since the whole terminal project was a new venture on the part of 
the State, the canal officials deemed it wise to let experience dictate 
most of the rules. But from time to time regulations have been 
adopted and in his annual report for 1919 Superintendent Walsh 
published the seventeen terminal regulations which had been 
adopted up to that time. 

The rules to govern general canal traffic had been published in 
convenient form some two years earlier. On July i, 1917, Super- 
intendent Wotherspoon had issued a brochure of sixty-two pages 

Later Policies 305 

comprising a complete set of rules and regulations for the contr.ol 
of navigation on the canals. It had been many years since any- 
thing like this had been published. A section of the general Canal 
Law directs the Superintendent of Public Works to make the 
rules to govern commerce on the canals, and as necessity has 
required, the various regulations have been adopted. With the ad- 
vent of the improved canal new rules were formulated and in this 
year, since the whole Barge canal was about to be opened, the 
publication of the regulations then in force, both old and new, was 
very timely. 

Since the Barge canal has been in operation there have been at- 
tempts on the part of Federal authorities to pass Congressional 
legislation inimical, in the eyes of New Yprkers, to our canals, and 
also a tendency to assert national jurisdiction over matters relating 
to navigation on the State canal system. It is interesting to observe 
how Superintendent of Public W.orks Walsh discovered and then 
thwarted one of these attempts. It was a proposed amendment to 
the Federal Act to Regulate Commerce which would have extended 
the control and jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission 
over carriers on the inland waterways, including the New York 
canals. Apprehensive of some such danger, Mr. Walsh had fol- 
lowed the progress in Congress of legislation relative to transpor- 
tation and when this measure appeared he marshaled the industrial 
forces of the State — the commercial organizations, the merchants 
and the manufacturers — and led a vigorous attack in opposition. 
He appeared before the Committee on Foreign and Domestic Com- 
merce at Washington on September i6, 1919, and presented a strong 
argument against the proposed amendment, saying that its passage 
would make railroad influence dominant over the canals and this 
would mean that the waterways would virtually lose their value. 
With the cooperation of the State representatives in Congress and 
the support of shipping interests the measure was defeated. 

The attempts to assert national jurisdiction over State canal mat- 
ters were apparent in 1919 and 1920. What was actually done was 
hot so important, but it involved a far-reaching principle. United 
States officials were trying to enforce a requirement that steam or 
motor vessels engaged in carrying passengers or freight on the 
inland waterways of the state should be inspected and licensed by 
the Department of Commerce and should not be allowed to oper- 
ate unless they were in charge of persons duly licensed by United 
States inspectors. These orders were issued in the name of the 
Secretary of Commerce, who evidently relied for his authority on 

306 History of the Barge Canal 

certain provisions of the United States Revised statutes which have 
to do with the construction, equipment, inspection and licensing of 
vessels using the navigable waters of the United States. It was 
held by Federal authorities that the State canals came within this 
classification. Under this interpretation the only State waterways 
left under State control would be small inland lakes which have 
no connection with the canals. So far as rules to govern naviga- 
tion were concerned the State had its own Navigation Law, which 
was substantially the same as that of the National government and 
provided for inspecting vessels and regulating their management, 
operation and equipment for the safety of traffic. 

In speaking of this action by the Government, Superintendent 
Walsh said it was directly opposed to the theory of canal construc- 
tion and also to the basic law of the State in regard to its canals. 
Whether State or Federal regulations were enforced was immate- 
rial — they were almost identical — but the underlying principle of 
control was all-important. If the authority of the National gov- 
eriunent to regulate navigation were admitted .or acquiesced in by 
the State, then the right of the State to control its own waterway 
was lost and the several State canals became merely "navigable 
waters of the United States." Carried to its logical conclusion the 
principle would require that many acts of the Superintendent .of 
Public Works should be subject to approval by Federal authorities, 
the right of Government engineers to pass upon State plans for 
construction and repairs could not be denied, direction for the 
management of canal structures forthcorning from Washington 
would be in order and in the end the State would be left with only 
the privilege of paying the bills. Mr. Walsh maintained that this 
conclusion was not far-fetched and he urged that every means at 
the command of the State and its representatives in Congress 
should be exerted to amend the United States statutes upon which 
the Secretary of Commerce relied in his entrance into the field of 
canal control, so as to except the State waterways from their 

In 1 919 State Engineer Williams reorganized his department so 
that it might continue on the basis of maintenance rather than that 
of construction, such as had been the practice for many years. As 
construction had advanced toward completion the force of engi- 
neers had gradually been reduced and now this which was in the 
nature of a permanent organization was being eflfected. 

With the virtual completion of the terminal project what Super- 
intendent of Public Works Walsh had to say in his 1920 report in 

Later Policies 307 

regard to operation, charges, revenue and other like terminal sub- 
jects is a matter of interest. In organizing his forces for terminal 
operation he had assigned to the care of the elaborate freight-hand- 
ling machinery such employees from other branches of the depart- 
ment as had deruonstrated their fitness. With these men as a 
nucleus, electricians and other skilled mechanics were added. The 
method of management was somewhat similar to that followed at 
other jNew York city terminals. Under its workings one or more 
officials, called harbormasters, remain constantly on duty during 
sixteen hours each day at each terminal. These men are vested 
with authority to enforce the adopted rules, they are responsible 
for State property, and it is their duty to serve the needs of traffic 
and protect the rights of all concerned. There is a chief harbor- 
master to whom all questions arising between the local harbormas- 
ters and the shipping public must be referred for decision. The 
chief harbormaster is guided by instructions from the Superintend- 
ent of Public Works. This plan applies particularly to New York 
city, but for other places also harbormasters have been appointed. 
This form of organization has proved to work well. 

Navigation .on the State canals, under constitutional provision, 
is free, but it has been held by canal officials that this provision 
does not prohibit a charge for the use of terminal facilities. It has 
been assumed that the authority given under the terminal act to 
prescribe rules and regulations carries the right to impose reason- 
able fees. At least such has been the policy established. Upon 
the Superintendent's recommendation the Canal Board adopted a 
partial schedule of charges for New York city and Buffalo ter- 
minals. Temporarily the imposition of fees at other terminals is held 
in abeyance, although it has been made plain that such policy is riot 
to be permanent. The arrangements so far have seemed to be sat- 
isfactory to everybody and tlie fees have been paid willingly. Care 
has been taken not to make the charges too great, lest traffic be 
discouraged, but it is considered only just that the canal terminals 
shall become self-supporting. 

The revenues from the New York city terminals had become 
sufficient in 1920 to assure their position not only as self-supporting 
institutions but also as producers of a surplus for making future 

For the better management of the terminals Superintendent Walsh 
suggested a few amendments to the law. As the law stood the 
Canal Board was the governing body and the Superintendent was 
limited in his acts to directions given by the Board. In the opinion 

308 History of the Barge Canal 

of Superintendent Walsh, while this provision was wise in its 
application to broad matters of policy, it restricted the Superin- 
tendent so narrowly that he could not cope with exigencies as they 
arose or administer the terminals to the best interests of the State. 
Mr. Walsh recommended an amendment to correct this situation. 
He also recommended an amendment to allow the Superintendent to 
impose penalties for the violation of rules. It was necessary too 
that the Superintendent should have authority to remove from a 
terminal any vessel, sunken or afloat, which should become a hin- 
drance to the proper use of the terminal or a menace to other 
craft. As a fourth recommendation he suggested that a similar 
provision should authorize the disposal of freight which the owner 
should refuse or neglect to remove or which might be unclaimed or 

In 192 1 Superintendent Cadle remitted wharfage fees on boats 
lying at terminals and loading ,or unloading. He considered that 
every effort should be made to foster use of the canals and this 
was one means he employed to accomplish the desired end. 

As a final policy there remains to be considered, not a policy 
adopted by some canal official in connection with construction or 
management, but a policy advocated by representatives from com- 
mercial and civic bodies throughout the state. The questions in- 
volved in this policy had been receiving much attention for some 
time and many conferences were held, not only to formulate a 
definite policy, but also to determine the nature and location of 
further canal improvements. The subject was thoroughly discussed 
at public meetings and it was decided to submit to the Legislature 
a proposition calling for a further issue of bonds. The slogan 
" Finish the job " was adopted and after a meeting held in Albany 
in March, 1920, a program of action was adopted which resulted 
in the introduction in the Senate of a bill to authorize a bond issue 
for a sum not to exceed $33,000,000. The particular improvements 
specified in the bill included grain elevators, coal transfer termi- 
nals, Hudson river terminals, the completion of certain canal ter- 
minals and new canal terminals. The locations and the sums for 
the grain elevators were: Buffalo, $1,600,000; Tonawanda, $1,- 
000,000; Oswego, $1,000,000; Gowanus bay. New York, $2,400,- 
000. There was to be coal transfer construction at two terminals, 
Ithaca and Watkins, to cost $1,250,000 at each place. Terminals 
were to be built at five Hudson river cities, these being Pough- 
keepsie, to cost $400,000; Kingston, estimated at $700,000; New- 
burgh at $600,000 ; Hudson at $300,000 ; and Yonkers at $500,000. 

Later Policies 309 

For completing terminal construction there were to be the follow- 
ing sums: At Erie and Ohio basins, Buffalo, $2,500,000; at Roch- 
ester, $1,400,000; at Syracuse, $650,000; at Utica, $450,000; and 
at New York city, $3,500,000. A million dollars was added for 
terminals at municipalities not specifically mentioned and for coal- 
and freight-handling devices at all terminals. These items totaled 
$20,500,000. The remainder, $12,500,000, was intended to cover 
obligations said already to have been incurred by the State in con- 
nection with damage claims arising from canal and terminal work 

Although the bill failed of passage, appropriations have since 
been made for some of the projects. The Gowanus elevator has 
been built and that at Oswego started. Sums have also been pro- 
vided for continuing terminal work at iNew York city, Buffalo and 
Rochester. The State had previously made a beginning of the 
Hudson River terminals. All of these several projects gathered 
together in a single measure had the appearance of a large, new 
policy, but really it was only the assembling of what had been dis- 
cussed and advocated separately and in part had already been 
adopted or soon thereafter was to be adopted as a State policy. 


Pollution of Canal Waters — Attempt to Secure Crescent Power — Canal 
Lands for Municipal Parks — Tree-Planting on Canal Lands — Canal 
Lands for Industrial Use — Proposed Wider Channel, Water ford to 
Oswego — Bridge Dam Made Highway Bridge — Old Canal Filled at 
Fulton — War Time Military Protection — Schenectady-Scotia Bridge — 
Rex ford- Aqueduct Bridge — Bridges at Phoenix, Fulton and Minetto — 
Elements of Efficient Canal Management — Zones of Canal Influence — 
Canal Visitors. 

DURING the years of constructing the Barge canal there 
has been a multitude of interesting incidents which have 
been neither matters of policy nor yet affairs very inti- 
mately connected with the actual building but which have been 
more or less closely associated with the canal and are important 
enough to deserve a few brief words of notice. Of the many 
incidents only a few can now be reviewed. Of necessity these have 
but little connection one with another. 

The first in order of time of those to be considered is the attempt 
to rid canal waters of pollution. In his report of 1907 Superin- 
tendent of Public Works Stevens discussed this subject at some 
length. What he said pertained largely to the old canal but a glance 
at his statements enables us to know what harmful practices had 
prevailed on the old waterway — practices which in some measure 
were being carried over to the new canal. For years the citizens 
of the cities and villages through which the canal passed had come 
to look upon the waterway as the legitimate place for emptying 
sewers or for receiving whatever noisome or waste materials they 
desired to be rid of. As a result, during the summer the waters 
were foul and in winter, when the canal was empty, it resembled a 
public dumping ground and an open sewer. The State could not 
well maintain a force for policing the whole length of the canals, 
and municipal authorities, both police and health officers, seemed 
to have fallen into the way of entirely overlooking violations of 
the penal code if the offenses were against the canal. The water- 
ways accordingly had become displeasing to the senses and a 
menace to health. Inherently the canals were capable of being attrac- 
tive. Some of the purest water in the state, from mountain streams 


Other Details and Incidents 3 1 1 

or w,oodland brooks, was used to feed them. The disrespect thus 
engendered for the physical appearance of the canal could but be 
reflected in a feeling that the waterway was of little real use. How 
wide-spread was this opinion we have already seen, and the com- 
munities which were the chief beneficiaries from canal traffic were 
largely responsible for this conception, since they by their failure 
to enforce the law had fostered the evil practices. Mr. Stevens 
had instituted a reform and was trying to instill a wholesome 
respect for the canals by making them less offensive to sight and 
less detrimental to health. 

Since the Barge canal lies largely in natural streams the condi- 
tions attending the pollution of its waters differ from those of the 
old canal. The tendency to use it as a dumping ground is not so 
great but the practice of making it a receptacle for sewers and 
industrial wastes still goes on. The desire to exclude pollution from 
our canals has now been reinforced by the incentive to keep clean 
our principal natural streams. Moreover the old custom of drain- 
ing all sewage, without chemical or other treatment, into streams 
is gradually giving away to the modern idea of scientific disposal 
plants. But this change, if left to municipalities alone, is slow 
and so we find State officials endeavoring to hasten the time when 
our streams will be purified. 

In each of his four annual reports State Engineer Bensel recom- 
mended legislative action to provide remedies for existing condi- 
tions. Early in his administration he had consulted with Governor 
Dix and the State Health Department on the subject of sewage 
disposal plants for municipalities along the canals. The existing 
statutes were inadequate to correct improper conditions. Prior to 
1903 the State Department of Health had no power whatever to 
enjoin or remove sewage pollution from any State waters. In 
1903 an act was passed which provided a remedy against future 
pollution but which, unfortunately for the cause of stream purifi- 
cation, specifically exempted municipalities and industrial plants that 
were discharging sewage and waste into State waters at the time 
of the enactment. An act of 191 o invested the Health Depart- 
ment with further powers but failed in effective purpose because 
under its limitations it was necessary, after full investigation and 
report, to establish the fact that the pollution was a public nuisance 
or a menace to health. Mr. Bensel's recommendations were unavail- 
ing. A change so radical would involve large expense for the 
municipalities and accordingly opposition was too strong to permit 

312 History of the Barge Canal 

the passage of measures adequate completely to eradicate the stream 
pollution evil. 

An incident of late 1909 and early 1910 is interesting, especially 
in the light of the recently-adopted State policy for the develop- 
ment of Barge canal water-powers. In November, 1909, the Cohoes 
Company, the power company which since 1826 has developed 
power from Mohawk river waters in the vicinity of Cohoes falls, 
petitioned the Canal Board, requesting the conveyance of certain 
lands, then a part of the old Erie canal, without compensation to 
the State therefor, and also the use of certain waters impounded 
by the new Crescent dam, as partial compensation to the company 
for damages alleged to have been caused by the construction of the 
Barge canal. Also a bill was introduced in the 1910 Legislature to 
authorize this company to use the waters impounded by Crescent 

The State canal officials were bitterly opposed to the proposed 
legislation. They considered it contrary to the broad policy the 
State, in their opinion, should adopt, namely, that of disposing of 
Barge canal water-powers under a general law, covering all cases, 
which should be to the benefit of all the people of the state rather 
than to a few individuals or corporations. Moreover, as was 
shown by the expert electrical engineer of the State Engineer's 
department, the company proposed to pay to the State annually 
from $3,000 to $7,500 for power which he estimated it could sell 
at a net profit of $65,000. The opposition of the officials prevented 
the passage of the bill. One thing State Engineer Williams did to 
bring about this result was to print the documents pertaining to the 
affair in the Barge Canal Bulletin and send this publication broad- 
cast over the state. 

We should notice also a few recommendations the State Engineer 
made from time to time for employing Barge canal lands for useful 
public or industrial purposes. In 1909 State Engineer Williams 
suggested the advisability of using certain elevated areas that had 
been created by depositing material from Barge canal excavation. 
Where these areas were near cities and villages they could be con- 
verted into municipal parks and such use would greatly benefit the 
people of the localities and would not be detrimental to the canal. 

Another suggestion Mr. Williams made was to plant trees on 
spoil-banks that were unsuited to cultivation. When he first recom- 
mended this, in 1910, he had in mind particularly the sandy stretch 
to the east of Oneida lake, where such trees, in addition to utilizing 

Other Details and Incidents 3 1 3 

waste lands and lending beauty to the landscape, would serve the 
very useful purpose of stabilizing the shifting sands. In suggesting 
this action later, in 1918, Mr. Williams advised the use of a much 
wider range of canal lands for tree-planting. A few pieces of land 
covered with material deposited from excavation had been recon- 
veyed to former owners, but in the majority of cases it seemed 
wise for the State to retain possession, since the areas might be 
needed again, if in the course of maintenance more material should 
be taken from the channel. Moreover these lands were often in 
small parcels of irregular shape and covered as they were with 
three or four feet .of newly-excavated material were of little value 
to private owners, especially for agricultural use. Originally many 
of these areas were rich bottom-lands that would be excellent for 
trees, once their roots had struck through the new material. 

Another and a very important prospective use for canal lands 
was that of serving as sites for industrial plants. This suggestion 
came from State Engineer Bensel. In the course of construction 
low and waste areas had been filled and also arable lands had been 
made non-productive, and all together there were available numerous 
desirable sites for manufacturing and business plants. These were 
situated near the canal of course, where they would be in direct 
touch with water transportation, and generally rail connections also 
could be easily provided. And besides these advantages, factories 
on such sites, as State Engineer Williams pointed out in his sub- 
sequent advocacy of this project, would be in position to avail 
themselves of canal water-power, when such power should be 
developed. These suggestions have been followed in some measure. 
For example three large oil companies have located near the Syra- 
cuse terminal. 

State Engineer Bensel made a recommendation to widen certain 
portions of the canal, which however was never carried into effect 
He judged that a part of the traffic from the Welland canal would 
desire to utilize the Barge canal between Oswego and New York 
city, thus reaching the Atlantic coast by a shorter route than that 
through the St. Lawrence river. Barge canal locks would accom- 
modate the boats which navigated the Welland canal, but there 
were approximately fifty miles of canal between Oswego and Water- 
ford which had a bottom width of only 75 feet, not enough to allow 
two boats .of maximum lock capacity to pass one another. Mr. 
Bensel called the attention of the Legislature of 1913 to this condi- 
tion and recommended that it consider the question of making an 
additional appropriation for the purpose of increasing these narrow 

314 History of the Barge Canal 

portions of canal to a bottom width of no feet. The estimated 
cost of such widening was $2,000,000. 

The movable dams of bridge type have already been mentioned 
several times. Although the bridges were built primarily to func- 
tion only as parts of the dams, they were inherently capable of 
serving also as highway bridges. There are eight of these movable 
dams in the lower Mohawk and some of them are situated where 
highway bridges across the river would be most acceptable to the 
inhabitants. At one dam, that at Rotterdam, the bridge has been 
converted into a highway structure. This work was done under 
an act (chapter 714, Laws of 1913) for the specific purpose, a 
special appropriation being made. In this instance the State bore 
the expense. Whether the State or the municipalities benefited 
or both together will pay for changes to others of these bridges, 
if they should be converted into highway structures, is a question 
still to be settled. 

A work of considerable importance to Fulton, on the Oswego 
canal, was that of filling the channel of the abandoned canal within 
the city. This work was done under special authority of chapter 
530 of the laws of 191 4, which however directed that the money 
for it should be taken from the Barge canal fund. 

A feature of our war-time experiences was the stationing of 
military guards at all strategic points on the Barge canal — places 
where by using explosives the waterway could be so damaged as 
to cause long interruptions in navigation as well as large financial 
loss. At all of the locks, dams and other important structures these 
details of soldiers were encamped. Visitors were not permitted 
at these structures and only persons who had passes duly signed 
by the proper officials and who had actual business to transact 
were allowed upon them. The canal officials took pains to make 
the soldiers as comfortable as possible during their rather long stay, 
especially at the outlying posts. 

There are a few bridges over the Barge canal which for one 
reason or another can be regarded as only partially belonging to 
the canal enterprise. The largest and the most elaborate of all 
bridges spanning the new waterway — the one which joins Schenec- 
tady and Scotia — is of this class. Before the State got around 
to rebuilding the near-by old bridge the residents of Schenectady 
conceived the idea of putting the new structure a half mile farther 
west, so that the approach to the city would better suit their plans, 
and substituting for the somewhat modest but, to the minds of canal 
officials, entirely adequate bridge an imposing structure made up 

Other Details and Incidents 3 1 5 

of numerous concrete arches. When the subject was broached to 
State Engineer Williams he strongly opposed the plan. The cost 
would be many times that of a bridge sufficient to meet all canal 
needs. But the people of Schenectady and vicinity began to agitate 
the project. They advertised the structure as an essential part 
of the main east and west highway across the state, christening it 
the Great Western Gateway. They enlisted the support of the 
whole Mohawk valley and even the region beyond, and came down 
to Albany in such f.orce that the Legislature was constrained to 
grant their request. First the State Engineer was directed to make 
plans and estimates. This was in 1917. Then in 1919 construc- 
tion was authorized in accordance with these plans. The bridge 
is of concrete arch construction, having twenty-three arches. These 
range in span from 106 to 212 feet. The whole structure, including 
approaches, is about three-quarters of a mile long. The money for 
construction comes from three sources — special legislative appro- 
priations, funds supplied by the city and county of Schenectady 
and the village of Scotia and a sum set aside from Barge canal 
moneys. The bridge is now nearing completion. 

Another bridge, built because of Barge canal construction but 
not a part of it, is the one across the Mohawk river joining the 
village of Rexford and the hamlet of Aqueduct. Here the old 
canal used to cross the river on what was known as Rexford Flats 
aqueduct. The new structure utilizes parts of the old aqueduct, 
but a steel span crosses the new canal channel. Chapter 176 of 
the laws of 1921 authorized the work and provided the funds. 

Three long new bridges over the Oswego river, built during the 
course of canal construction, were paid for only in part by the 
State. These bridges, at Phoenix, Fulton and Minetto, are all 
concrete arch structures. The State in each instance bore the 
expense of only the span across the canal, the remainder having 
been paid for by the towns connected by each bridge. At Fulton 
the canal span is an arch, like the rest of the bridge, but at Phoenix 
and Minetto the State spans are, respectively, a bascule and a 
convertible, the latter being capable of conversion into a bascule. 

In the 1920 annual report of Superintendent of Public Works 
.Walsh, presented to the Legislature just as he was retiring from 
office, we find a discussion worth noticing. He was giving his 
views with reference to the necessary elements of efficient canal 
management. In considering what he had to say it must be remem- 
bered that as a practical canal transportation operator of many years 
standing he had become keenly aware of certain defects in the 

316 History of the Barge Canal 

management of the State waterways and then as head of the depart- 
ment he had viewed the subject from a new angle and had learned 
the difficulties in the way of securing better operation. 

Mr. Walsh began his discussion by commending the progress 
made in the preceding double decade. Prior to that time it had 
been the generally accepted doctrine that the canal system was a 
legitimate field for political manipulation, and as a result nearly 
the whole roster of employees had been changed with each change 
of administration. But even before the new canal had come into 
use a better condition had begun, and later, when the elaborate 
machinery of the new type of structure demanded skilled operators;^ 
a large part of the working force was selected by competitive civil 
service examinations and men of a much higher grade were 
obtained. Such action had met with general approbation and it 
was for the continuation and extension of this practice that Mr. 
Walsh was asking — the putting of canal operation and manage- 
ment on a business basis, entirely divorced from the domain of 
politics. Party lines had been obliterated in the agitation for canal 
improvement, said Mr. Walsh, and now that the new waterway 
had become an essential factor in commerce, strict business prin- 
ciples should be applied to its administration, some degree of 
permanency should be assured in the service and every employee 
should be made to feel that his term of employment depended solely 
on his attention to duty and his fitness for the work. But it might 
be, in Mr. Walsh's opinion, that the root of the trouble lay in the 
impermanency of the position of Superintendent, which in its legal 
status was no more definite than that of a humble bridge tender. 
His tenure of office was solely at the Governor's pleasure. The 
provisions governing the office harked back to the time when the 
canals were regarded as the battlefield of politics, when campaigns 
were won and lost on the success or failure of the canal administra- 
tion. But those days had passed. The State's waterways were^ 
gradually but surely coming to be recognized as a purely business 
institution, demanding the eradication of all elements except those 
tending to commercial success. 

Aside from the all-important matter of transportation, other vast 
interests were intrusted to the Superintendent of Public Works; 
miUions of the State's moneys were dispensed by him annually; 
questions of enormous importance were presented to him for 
decision almost daily. The efficient conduct of the aflFairs .of the 
department demanded the services of a broad-minded executive of 
wide experience and also a continuance in office for a specific term 

Other Details and Incidents 3 1 7 

of reasonable duration. Since gubernatorial elections take place 
biennially, the Superintendent's term might be limited to two years. 
This had often happened and occasionally the time had been less 
than two years. Whenever a change should occur in the ofHce 
of chief executive of the State, whether in the same political party 
or another or even, it might be, in the midst of a term, the Super- 
intendent must be prepared to vacate his place in favor .of the new 
Governor's appointee. If a Superintendent's services were limited 
to two years, only a small portion of that time could be devoted 
to the execution of policies which in his judgment seemed best 
for the State. More than half of the first year would have elapsed 
before he could acquaint himself with the vast property under 
his charge, the important interests he must guard and the facts as 
to the actual working out of the policies of his predecessor. After 
his own plans had been formulated, the effecting of any important 
changes must of necessity be gradual and slow and the result was 
that the navigation season of the second year would be well under 
way before the newly-adopted policies should be even in operation. 

This situation, to Mr. Walsh's mind, was impossible. His remedy 
was the fixing of a definite term of ofifi.ce, at least five years, with 
the incumbent, like other State officers, subject to removal before 
the end of his term only upon stated charges and after a public 
hearing. Moreover, as far as possible the office should be removed 
from politics. To accomplish this latter result Mr. Walsh recom- 
mended an innovation in State affairs — nothing less than legisla- 
tion which in effect w.ould vest the nomination for Superintendent 
of Public Works in the recognized business agencies of the state. 
While this principle as a State policy might be considered as with- 
out precedent, really it had already been applied, not only in the 
case of the canal itself but in other State matters as well. 

During the course of canal construction one particular study 
was made which deserves brief notice. It is a study which throws 
much light on the potential influence of the canal on the transporta- 
tion problems of the whole state. The object of the study was to 
learn what proportions of the state's population were in either close 
or remote touch with the canal. The various branches of the 
canal system penetrate to many parts of the state and in the study 
under discussion this system was considered as consisting of all 
the State waterways of Barge canal dimensions. Although Lakes 
Erie and Ontario and the St. Lawrence river might with propriety 
have been regarded as parts of the waterway S3'Stem, they were 
n,ot SO considered in this particular study. If these bodies of water 

318 Histoty of the Barge Canal 

had been included, the showing in favor of the canal would of 
course have been still better. From the study it appears that 73j4 
per cent of the population of the whole state is within two miles 
of the waterway system. In like manner it is seen that y'/ per cent 
of the population is within five miles, 82 per cent within ten miles 
and 87 per cent within twenty miles. Looking at the facts from 
a different angle it appears that 46 per cent of the total area of the 
state is within the twenty-mile limit. Considering two other dis- 
tances from the waterways, fifty and seventy miles, the possibilities 
of a combined canal and automobile traffic become apparent. 
These are the respective distances which motor trucks of ^/^ ^nd 
2 tons capacity can cover in a day's run, going and returning. The 
territory within fifty miles is 71 per cent ,of the area of the whole 
state, while that within seventy miles is 88 per cent of this total 
area. A productive field for motor truck operation in connection 
with the enlarged canals was thus revealed. Since New York's 
population is approximately .one-tenth that of the whole country, 
we see that about seven per cent of the people of the United States 
are within a half hour's walk of the New York waterway system. 
Translated into numbers this percentage represents about seven 
million individuals. It is apparent then what it means to the State 
and also to the country at large that the products of these seven 
million people and the supplies they need may have available the 
means of cheap water transportation, especially after the traffic 
shall have been developed to the full extent of which the new 
canals are capable. 

Another interesting feature connected with the Barge canal is 
the visitors it has attracted. The new waterway has been the Mecca 
of many pilgrimages. Of course it is not possible, even if it were 
desirable, to enumerate all of these, since no record has been kept 
of the great majority of them, but a few notable examples may be 
mentioned. Probably the largest single company to visit the canal 
was composed of delegates to the International Navigation Congress. 
This Congress convened in Philadelphia, Pa., in May, 1912. 
Delegates from all over the world were in attendance, some forty 
countries being represented. After the convention many of the 
visitors joined an excursion which had as one of its principal 
objectives the inspection of the Barge canal throughout its entire 
length across the state. This party traveled by special train and 
was large enough to require twelve cars for its accommodation. 
Two days, June 7 and 8, were spent in the trip from Albany to 
Buffalo, several rather long stops being made on the way to allow 

Other Details and Incidents 3 1 9 

close inspection of canal structures. Thus the party had a chance 
to walk over the land line at Waterf ord, to visit the movable dam at 
Fort Plain and the lock of 405^ feet lift at Little Falls, to go 
over the interesting work of canal construction and railroad reloca- 
tion at Rome or to take automobile and visit the Delta dam, and 
to get a close view of the tandem locks and other structures at 
Lockport. Other parts of the canal, pf course, could be seen from 
the car windows throughout most of the trip. Dr. Elmer L. 
Corthell, member of the Advisory Board of Consulting Engineersi 
during the early stages of Barge canal construction, was much 
interested in the affairs of the Navigation Congress and he was 
largely responsible for arranging the excursion over the canal. 
Many of the delegates were engineers and were especially 
interested in so remarkable an engineering project as the new canal. 
Four or five engineers from the State Engineer's department 
accompanied the party. 

Later in the same year another party, composed largely of 
foreigners and traveling by special train, visited the Barge canal, 
but in this case the inspection of the canal was but one of several 
interests. The trip made by this company was known as " The 
Transcontinental Excursion of 1912 of the American Geographical 
Society of New York," and was in celebration of the sixtieth an- 
niversary of the Society and of the completion and occupancy of 
its new building, situated at Broadway and 156th street. The 
excursion started from New York on August 22 and after travers- 
ing the continent along a northern route returned by a southern 
route and reached New York" on October 17, disbanding after a 
closing dinner at the Waldorf the next evening. Some of Europe's 
most distinguished scientists and scholars were in the company and 
everywhere along the route they were welcomed by citizens and 
organizations and heralded by the press in such manner as became 
their high standing. The party consisted of forty-three foreign 
members, from thirteen countries of Europe, and about a dozen 
permanent American members, but the director of the excursion, 
Professor William M. Davis of Harvard University, had arranged 
for many temporary members to be with the party for one, two or 
three days at a time in regions where they could serve as guides 
and helpers by reason of their own studies or their familiarity with 
certain local conditions. Increased by these temporary members the 
American contingent numbered ninety. Among the temporary 
members was a representative from the State Engineer's depart- 
ment, who was with the party from Albany to Buffalo on August 

320 History of the Barge Canal 

22 to 24 and also at the closing dinner at New York. At the 
request of the director of the excursion this representative was 
designated by the State Engineer and it was his task to impart to 
the visitors information concerning the Barge canal. It fell to the 
lot of the writer to be this canal representative and he .observed 
that the members of the party, especially the foreign members, 
showed much interest in the new waterway, more in fact than was 
manifested by the engineers who earlier in the year had visited 
the canal with the excursion of the Navigation Congress. 

In the summer of 1913 an inspection .of the canal was made 
under the auspices of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. This 
trip extended from Buffalo to Albany and consimied three days. 
It was conducted personally by State Engineer Bensel and his 
Deputy and Division Engineers, he having attended to making 
arrangements for the excursion after the men from Buffalo had 
expressed a desire to take such a trip. The Buffalo Chamber of 
Commerce was the first commercial organization in the state to 
undertake anything of this kind. Its purpose was to afford its 
members opportunity to acquire first-hand information in regard 
to the canal and the progress of its building. The utter lack of 
knowledge concerning the canal on the part of chambers of com- 
merce, boards of trade, cities, villages and the people in general 
throughout the entire state, and even a well-defined apathy in many 
places were appalling to those members of the Buffalo organization 
who had the welfare of the canal at heart. They determined, 
therefore, to make such a condition impossible in their own body 
and at the same time to set an example for other organizations. 

The engineers who have visited the canal singly or in small groups 
are numerous. They have come from all parts of the world, often 
being sent by their governments to make a careful study of the 
whole waterway or some sf)ecial type of construction. Some of 
these engineers have been about to design canals for other 
localities. Of this class was a company of men who had in charge 
the Lake Erie and Ohio River canal, a project to join the Ohio 
river at Pittsburgh with Lake Erie. In this instance members of 
the Ohio and Pennsylvania commission, as well as the engineers, 
visited the Barge canal. So too the Federal engineers who were to 
design the prospective Lake Erie and Lake Michigan canal, join- 
ing the heads of Lakes Erie and Michigan, and certain of the 
intracoastal canals along the Atlantic shore, as well as other national 
projects, have been interested visitors to the New York waterway. 
These engineers have always been shown every possible courtesy 

Other Details and Incidents 32 1 

and sometimes the State Engineer has assigned a member of his 
corps to accompany them on their trips. 

The delegates to one ,of the annual meetings of the Atlantic 
Deeper Waterways Association, convening in New York city, were 
taken on excursion up the Hudson, in order that they might 
appreciate the importance of the Deeper Hudson project, and then 
the trip was continued to include the spectacular land line section 
of the Barge canal between the Hudson and Mohawk rivers in the 
vicinity of Waterford. 

The visit of chief importance perhaps, as far as its influence 
is concerned, was that of the fall of 1921, when a company com- 
posed of about forty members of Congjress, representing the 
western, southern and southwestern states, and manufacturers and 
business men of the Great Lakes territory, together with a goodly 
number of New Yorkers, were taken in boats up the Hudson and 
through the new canal under the auspices of certain chambers of 
commerce and public spirited men of the state. Inciting this 
excursion was a desire to combat what New Yorkers consider is 
the pernicious agitation for the St. Lawrence ship canal. The 
attempt appeared to be successful. The members of Congress 
acknowledged that their former ideas of the inadequacy of the 
Barge canal were entirely erroneous and expressed their determina- 
tion to oppose the St. Lawrence scheme. Several members of the 
Public Works department accompanied this excursion. 



Commission Created — Its Duties — Its Personnel — Its Work — Its Recom- 
mendations — Review of Recommendations: TrafHc Organization ■' Co- 
operative Rail and Water Relationships: Charting Canal Waters: Dis- 
tribution of Canal Cargoes by Surface Railways — Mr. Bensel's Dissent — 
Its Details. 

THERE is a paragraph in the report of the Committee on 
Canals, the body that definitely form.ulated the Barge canal 
policy, which we did not notice in passing but which is 
pertinent to the subject now in hand. "As stated in the beginning 
of this report," says the committee, " in our judgment the efficiency 
of the canals depends quite as much upon the way the business is 
handled on them as upon their physical size, and we advise against 
the expenditure of any more money for their enlargement unless 
it shall be accompanied with measures which will lead to the adop- 
tion of more modern methods in conducting the business of water 
transportation across the state. The policy of the State hitherto 
has been to discourage the adoption of modern business methods 
and to foster the handling of the traffic by canal boatmen owning 
each a single boat, or small companies owning a few boats. This 
prevents the State from taking advantage of those improvements 
in business management which have brought about such enormous 
economies in other lines. Canal legislation has been largely in the 
interest of the comparatively small nmnber of canal boatmen, but 
it has resulted in failure so far as they are concerned, for experience 
has shown that they are unable to cope with the methods employed 
through corporate action." 

Some of the recommendations made by the Committee on Canals 
for adopting modern methods in conducting the business of water 
transportation were carried into effect. Aside from the repeal 
of the statute limiting transportation companies to a capital of 
fifty thousand dollars, these changes, however, had to do largely 
with the period of canal construction. The recommendations of the 
Terminal Commission in their turn resulted in the State again 
advancing by seven-league strides, but neither of these commissions 
had much more than hinted at the subject of canal administration 


Commission on Operation 323 . 

and management. As the time for opening considerable portions 
of the new canal approached this became a live topic and a com- 
mission for its special consideration was created. The immediate 
cause back of the creation of this commission was a recommenda- 
tion by Superintendent of Public Works Treman in his annual 
report to the Legislature of 1912. 

The specific objects of investigation assigned by law to this com- 
mission, as paraphrased in its report, were the following: Rules 
and regulations for operating the Barge canal; methods to be 
applied in the matter of maintenance; principles to be applied to 
the end that commerce upon the canals may be encouraged, 
fostered and protected; the type or style of craft best suited to 
navigation; rules and regulations governing the operation of canal 
terminals; statutory changes necessary or desirable to a proper, 
efficient and economical management of the enlarged canal ; also 
any and all other subjects and matters, the study of which may be 
expected to contribute to a wise and efficient administration of the 
State's waterways system, to the end that the new and enlarged 
waterways may fulfill to the greatest measure possible the purposes 
had in mind when their construction was authorized. 

The creating act, which became a law February 28, 191 2, 
(chapter 9) called this body a Commission on Barge Canal Opera- 
tion and designated as members the two who then held the offices 
of State Engineer and Superintendent of Public Works and three 
others, to be appointed by the Governor from among persons who 
had had executive experience in the administration of the New York 
State canals. After the three appointees were named by the Gov- 
ernor the personnel of the commission was John A. Bensel, State 
Engineer, Duncan W. Peck, Superintendent of Public Works, 
Charles E. Treman, John JST- Partridge and Winslow M. Mead. 
Mr. Treman and Mr. Partridge had each filled the office of Super- 
intendent of Public Works, Mr. Treman in 191 1 and 191 2 and 
Mr. Partridge from 1899 to 1901, and Mr. Mead had but recently 
retired from the office of Deputy Superintendent of Public Works, 
which he had held since 1901. At the first meeting of the com- 
mission Mr. Treman was chosen chairman and Mr. Mead secretary. 

One of the first acts of the commission was the sending out of 
nearly a thousand circular letters to boatmen, forwarders, marine 
insurance officials, shippers, boat-builders and other persons or 
organizations which were supposed to have the interests of the canal 
at heart, asking the recipients to submit whatever helpful sug- 

324 History of the Barge Canal 

gestions they could. A little later public hearings were conducted, 
one in Buffalo and one in New York. The commissioners also 
made a personal inspection of some of the Canadian canals and to 
add to all the information they could collect relative to the manage- 
ment of American canals the secretary of the commission visited 
Europe and there made a study of the operation and control of 
canals, harbors, terminals and canalized rivers. 

Probably the greatest contribution of this commission is to be 
found in its recommendations concerning two essential improve- 
ments, one the establishment of a traffic organization and the other 
the adjustment of relationships between rail and water carriers 
which should not be inimical to the canal. 

First we shall quote a summary of recommendations submitted 
by the commission in its report to the Legislature and then we 
shall examine in detail the studies which led to some of its con- 
clusions. This summary, which includes the more important 
recommendations, is as follows : 

" That the Superintendent of Public \\'^orks be continued in 
charge of the canals, and that the division superintendents be 
increased from three to four in number, section superintendents 
being eliminated. 

" That a traffic organization for the canals be estabUshed, to 
the end that traffic may be diverted to the canal route and the 
State's commerce maintained and extended. 

" To the end that interchange of traffic between railways and 
canals may be effected, that the Public Service Commission be 
given authority to compel extension of railway tracks to all canal 
terminals on such terms as may appear to be equitable. 

" That such amendment of the statute shall be had as shall be 
necessary to prevent further disposition of any of the State's hold- 
ings of land under water or of water frontage excepting upon 
revocable leases, and that no lease should be for a greater term 
than twenty years. 

" That the Public Service Commission be given authority to 
establish rates .on through route and Joint rates by railway and 
water carriers; and to prescribe a fair division of such rates; to 
prevent railway companies exacting from shippers more than they 
charge for same service if goods were shipped by rail under 
joint traffic agreement by connecting railroads; power to compel 
the issue of through bills of lading; authority to compel railways 
to charge less than local rates to all lake, river and sea ports on 

Commission on Operation 325 

through traffic to be exchanged with boat Hnes engaged in the 
domestic trade unless prorating arrangements already exist; 
authority vested in the Public Service Commission to compel fair 
treatment of canal-borne traffic by railways, and, further, to 
determine elevator and service warehouse rates, and maximum tug 
or other tractive power rates. 

"All water lines operating within the State, whether controlled 
by corporation, company, firm or individual shall by statute be 
declared to be common carriers. 

" That terminals and terminal equipment be operated as a 
separate bureau under the direction of the Superintendent of 
Public Works, and all accounts kept separate from maintenance 
and operation of the canals proper. 

" Creation of a chief harbor-master, with local harbor-masters 
in charge at each terminal. 

" That the Superintendent of Public Works be authorized to 
levy terminal charges against commodity tonnage, subject to the 
approval of the Canal Board, the rates being only sufficient to 
cover cost of upkeep and operation of terminals, the revenue there- 
from to constitute a sinking fund to be devoted to repair and 
extension of terminal equipment. 

" That the Public Service Commission be given power necessary 
to enable authorization of the use of surface lines for goods 
delivery purposes in terminal cities. 

" That separate quarters in terminal storehouses, special berth, 
piers, cranes, and other utilities be assigned at terminals for the 
accommodation of package freight. 

" That the Superintendent of Public Works, the State Engineer 
and Surveyor, and the Canal Board be given authority to grant 
owners of land adjoining canal waters authority to construct grav- 
ing-docks, under proper restrictions. 

" The enactment of a statute prescribing stringent rules for the 
transportation of explosives through the canal, and forbidding the 
mooring of boats carrying explosives, petroleum or any of its by- 
products, in basins or at any point excepting such place as may be 
specially prescribed by the Superintendent of Public Works. 

" That steps be taken for charting and lighting of the river and 
lake portions of the canal uniform with federal regulations gov- 
erning such matters. 

" That provision be made for the installation of a complete 
telephone system, on the canals. 

326 Hisioty of the Barge Canal 

" Appropriations for the procurement of new repair machinery 
and hydraulic dredges. 

" The repeal .or amendment of several minor statutes in the 
interest of consistency, and to the end that an adjustment to new 
conditions may be made certain. 

" That a more comprehensive method for disposing of abandoned 
canal lands may be made, to apply to the lands that will be 
abandoned as a result of the placing of the improved canal in 

" Modification of civil service laws affecting skilled operatives in 
the Department of Public Works. 

" Amendment of statute so as to increase maximum speed of 
craft in river and lake sections. 

" Maximum dimensions of craft to be left to Superintendent of 
Public Works to determine." 

Among a few minor recommendations may be mentioned three — 
one that the Superintendent of Public Works should have full 
authority in matters of sanitation on the canals, another that he 
in cooperation with the Canal Board should have such jurisdiction- 
over private docks and terminal equipment as to prevent them from 
being a menace to State terminals, and the third that the law be 
amended so as to allow greater speed on the canals than the four 
or six miles then permitted on various sections. 

It will be observed that certain of these recommendations are 
but echoes .of recommendations made by the Terminal Commission 
in its report in 191 1. The first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and 
ninth items of the summary just quoted are of such character. 
These relate to the administration of the canal being entrusted to 
the Superintendent of Public Works, the retention of State lands, 
the fixing .of terminal charges and the regulation of canal and rail- 
road relationships. 

In recommending a traffic organization the commission was try- 
ing to cure one .of the most pernicious ills of the whole canal 
system. To illustrate the gravity of the situation the report 
pictures what would happen if a railway should adopt the methods 
employed on the canal. This railway would maintain its trackage 
but the cars would be owned and operated by individuals. When 
a shipper had goods to send he would be obliged first to find an 
owner who had a car available for the service and then to bargain 
with him, since there would be no fixed rate for the use of the 
car. The only standard to guide in determining this rate would 

Commission on Operation 327 

be what some other individual had asked in payment for a similar 
service at a particular time. With such a condition, the commis- 
sion points out, there would be chaos and neither the. shipper, 
the consumer nor the car owner would be benefited; no one indeed 
excepting possibly a competing railway with systematized methods 
and highly developed regulations, offering through and combined 
rates to destination, would be the gainer. 

" Yet this very condition, premised in the case of a railway com- 
pany," to quote the report, " is the one that has been in existence 
on the canals since they were first placed in commission. There 
has been no unison of action on the part of individual boat owners ; 
no guarantee, little assurance, no promptitude in the service, no 
energy in building up a clientele, no harmony of interests, no care 
for cargoes, no combined rates, no advance rate on which a shipper 
might depend as a basis for figuring on transportation; and the 
safety ,of the cargoes has been so little regarded that even the 
marine insurance companies have thought it necessary either to 
exact a greater rate than the cargo could properly stand or with- 
hold insurance altogether. If the Barge canal is to be a success, 
system, capacity, reliability and stability must be substituted for 
the chaos that heretofore has ruled." 

If objection be raised to the maintenance of a traffic bureau on 
the ground that such action becomes paternalism, the commission 
answers that the line into paternalism was crossed when canal 
tolls were abolished. If it be contended that the State should not 
enter into competition with railways which enjoy State charter and* 
contribute a corporation tax in support of the State government, 
the answer is that the idea that railways and canals are competitors 
has been discarded abroad, is fast being discarded here and will 
be wholly discarded if the era of water-borne traffic on which 
the country seems to have entered develops to its promised propor- 
tions. The tfuth of the principle that the rational relationship 
between canals and railways is complemental rather than competi- 
tive was proved by universal experience in Europe. So thought 
the commission, and it believed also that the establishment of a 
traffic bureau, although its acknowledged aim was to divert traffic 
to the new canal, would neither infringe on the rights of railroads 
nor for long do violence to their interests. 

In going still farther and trying to secure cooperative relation- 
ships by compelling physical connections and a free interchange of 
freight between canals and railways the commission realized that 

328 Hlstoty of the Barge Canal 

it was dealing with a delicate question. Until the European idea 
of mutual benefit became more general any legislation looking 
toward compulsory cooperation was apt to be viewed as offensive, 
unjust and actually infringing on corporate rights. Nevertheless 
it was so important a question that without its settlement in favor 
of the canals their success, notwithstanding their natural advan- 
tages of cheap transportation, was a matter of grave doubt. This 
was a question, moreover, which had been much studied by Federal, 
State and municipal officials throughout the country. In the recom- 
mendations quoted we have seen in brief form how the commission 
proposed to solve the problem for New York State, and the solu- 
tion it suggested was in close accord with Federal action for regulat- 
ing interstate and foreign commerce. We shall see a little later 
that the commission's recommendations on this subject were 
enacted into State law. 

In considering the regulation of the canal terminals the question 
arose in the minds of the commissioners whether the constitutional 
provision prohibiting the imposition of tolls on persons or property 
transported on the canals could be construed to mean that no charge 
might be made for the use of terminal facilities. The law authoriz- 
ing the terminals mentioned certain charges, which were to be 
established by the Canal Board and collected by the Superintendent 
of Public Works, but of course this law would not hold against 
any constitutional dictum. 

The commission argued that canal terminals as now conceived did 
not exist when the constitutional amendment was passed, and 
reached die conclusion that no fair minded person could claim that 
it was ever intended by any one who had to do with authorizing 
the terminals that their facilities, including human and machine 
labor, should be furnished free by the State or that any equipment 
except the channels themselves should be free to commerce. More- 
over it was not believed that commerce was in need of any such 
wholesale subsidy. 

There are only twp other recommendations which we desire to 
consider in detail. One concerns the charting of river and lake 
channels and the other the use of surface railways for distribu- 
ting canal cargoes in cities and villages. It is obvious that a water- 
way having a channel somewhere within the broad expanse of river 
or lake area rather than confined within its own fixed banks needed 
charting. The suggestion was that the Federal practice be adopted. 
Eventually, as we have already seen, the channels were buoyed and 

Commission on Operation 329 

lighted to accord with this practice and the Federal government 
was even persuaded to make charts, through its Great Lakes Survey- 
organization, of the New York State canalized streams and lakes. 
In addition the State also has issued certain navigation charts. 

The suggestion to use local railways to distribute goods was ex- 
cellent. It was in line with a use of such trackage already being 
made in many American cities and in suburban territory to a limited 
extent, but as yet the companies carrying on this traffic were 
usually working independently of connecting lines and particularly 
had no connections with water carriers. Where comparisons had 
been made between this method and ordinary carting with horses 
the latter had been found to be two and a half times more costly. 
It was the thought to use these distributing lines at night or at 
times other than the rush hours. 

There was one dissenting voice in the commission's report. Mr. 
Bensel differed from the others, chiefly in desiring to have the ad- 
ministration of the canals vested in a commission to be created for 
the particular purpose rather than to have the Superintendent of 
Public Works continued as the managing head. Mr. Bensel be- 
lieved that the welfare of the canals demanded their control by a 
body divorced from any one State administration, of a somewhat 
permanent character and composed of experts who should give 
their exclusive and continuous attention to the work. This form 
of management, he thought, was the prevailing tendency in institu- 
tions of public concern, such as canals. In closing his dissenting 
report, Mr. Bensel says: 

" Referring to the summary of the recommendations made by 
the majority of the Commission, I would respectfully submit the 
following divergent opinions : 

" First. — That the charge of the canal be in the hands of a 
commission with full power of organization, that they may estab- 
lish traffic on the new canal. 

" Second. — That such a commission, with the approval of the 
Public Service Commission, be given authority relative to the ex- 
tension of railroad tracks to all of the canal terminals. 

" Third. — That such a commission be given authority to estab- 
lish joint rates with railroads for carrying on through routes, sub- 
ject to the Public Service Commission, and to compel the issuance 
of through bills of lading. 

" In regard to the recommendation about terminals and terminal 
equipment, I would respectfully recommend that this matter be 
left to the management of a canal commission. 

330 History of the Barge Canal 

" Such a commission should also, in my opinion, be authorized to 
fix terminal charges over a commodity handled at the State's canal 
terminals, and further, that the commission above recommended 
have full authority to arrange and to permit the use of the store- 
houses, piers, cranes, etc., and to permit the construction of graving 
docks on lands adjacent to the State's canal lands, and to enact 
such rules and regulations in regard to the transportation of mate- 
rials as may be determined necessary from time to time by the 

"And, further, authorized to install telegraph and telephone 
systems along the canal system, and to have whatever authority 
that will be necessary for the expenditure of moneys to hght, repair, 
and maintain the canal, such as may seem to them expedient in 
order that proper commercial use may be made of the State's canal 



Prediction of Completion — New Conditions Tend to Delay Completion — 
New Incentives Incite to Greater Zeal — State Engineer's Speech — The 
Goal — Summary of Hindrances — Expedients Used near Rochester — 
DiMcult Situation near Lyons Overcome — Swift Action at Tonawanda 
Needed — Irondequoit Trough Completed by State Forces — Resource- 
fulness Solves Baffling Railroad Problem — Etiergetic Efforts Prevent 
Bad Slide from Being Fatal Hindrance — Final Work Completed Just 
in Time — Ceremony of Removing Last Barrier — Comparison with 
Removal of Last Barrier in Original Erie Canal. 

AS THE various sections of the Barge canal were com- 
pleted, if their locations permitted, they were thrown open 
to navigation. Additions were thus made from time to time 
as we have already seen and ordinarily these were regarded simply 
as natural occurrences in the course of progress, no very unusual 
efforts being employed to bring them about and little heed being paid 
to them by others than those directly concerned. But the days shortly 
preceding the opening of sections that would make the whole new 
canal from one end to the other available for full-sized traffic were 
accompanied by rather dramatic scenes. Several years before this 
period State Engineer Williams in an annual report had predicted 
that on a certain date the channel would be finished. But between 
this prediction and its realization the United States had entered the 
World war and, although new difficulties had arisen to prevent this 
accomplishment, new reasons had come which seemed to make its 
attainment imperative and also new incentives were impelling the 
builders to try the harder to reach their goal. Every patriot was 
desirous of doing his utmost for his country and because of the 
as'sistance a completed deep canal between Great Lakes and ocean 
might render in emergent war-time needs there fell upon those con- 
ducting canal affairs a deep sense of obligation to let nothing short of 
absolute impossibility stand in the way of opening a full-depth 
channel at the earliest moment. But, because the war had brought 
new industrial conditions, it did not seem humanly possible to 
advance the time of completion ahead of the day already predicted — 
the opening of navigation in the spring of 1918 — and so the f ul- 


332 HisiorX) of the Barge Canal 

fillment of that promise became a most solemn and compelling 
patriotic duty to the State Engineer and the members of his depart- 
ment, to the Superintendent of Public Works and his assistants, 
and to the contractors and their men. 

When this prediction was made> at the close of 191 5, its con- 
summation while not easy at least did not seem impossible, but as 
the time drew near and difficulties and hindrances multiplied it 
appeared on many critical occasions that the way to success was 
impassably blocked. The story of the weeks and the months of 
this fight against seemingly insurmountable obstacles is most interest- 
ing, especially the account of the latter days of the contest, when 
again and again some almost tragic mishap occurred or some new 
and well-nigh insuperable barrier arose, and defeat was turned into 
victory only by indomitable perseverance and determination as well 
as the exercise of ready resourcefulness. The men who spared 
neither strength nor courage in this all but unequal struggle are 
worthy of high praise. Their patriotism and their zeal demanded 
as a reward the complete fulfillment of their expectations. That 
the canal was not allowed to play the part they anticipated was not 
because of its lack of fitness nor does the fact detract from the 
honor due these men. But we shall speak of this later. 

To read aright this tale of completing the canal in time to serve 
a military necessity, we must recall the spirit of the times and feel 
again the thrill of war's impelling motives. Perhaps we can do this 
best by jumping to the end of the story and hearing first what the 
State Engineer said on the day the canal was opened. In the evening 
of that day, May 15, 1918, a company of about a hundred, engineers 
and contractors, gathered at dinner at the Hotel Rochester in modest 
celebration of the event. State Engineer Williams was the guest 
of honor, as being the controlling spirit of the accomplishment, and 
his speech was reported as follows in a Rochester newspaper the 
next morning: 

" Probably there is no man in the city of Rochester tonight out- 
side of this room — mark the exception — who has greater cause 
for gratification than I. At a time when it is almost providential 
in its occurrence the Department of the State Engineer has been 
able to throw open to public use a route of transportation in that 
part of the country where it is most needed. 

" The war has been in progress a little more than one year, so 
far as our participation in it is concerned. We are told that food 
will win the war, that money will win the war, that men will win 

Rapid Completion under War Stress 333 

the war, and each of these is a factor without which we cannot 
win, but underlying everything else as a prime necessity is trans- 

" Every true-hearted American is anxious to do his part in making 
certain that liberty ' shall not perish from the earth,' but this duty 
is not entirely taken up with the handling of bayonets and bombs 
and airplanes and artillery. You men who have strained your nerves 
and worked your hardest to get this canal open, so that it might 
carry the necessities of war, have rendered to your country a service 
whose effect on the decision to be reached in Europe may outweigh 
the work of an entire army corps. Let not one of you regard lightly 
what he has done or the part he has played. Engineers and con- 
tractors ahke, you have served the great cause perhaps better than 
you know. 

" I do not know what caused this war — commercial ambition, 
lack of territory, what not — but I do know that what we have com- 
pleted today will most certainly be a factor in speeding the war's 
conclusion, and that after a victorious peace the canal will take the 
place it was originally designed to occupy — a successful and 
economical means for peaceful transportation of the products of 
the industry of the people of the great commercial state of New 

In the spring of 1916 the State Engineer had taken a careful 
inventory of what remained to be done in canal construction and had 
fixed as a goal that which he had predicted shortly before, the com- 
pletion of the channel throughout its entire length for the opening 
of the navigation season of 1918. A year later the United States 
entered the war and immediately all else throughout the country 
became secondary to what was most essential for carrying on the 
conflict. It was seen that under the new conditions it would be most 
difficult to adhere to the original canal program and it would have 
been very easy and perhaps scarcely reprehensible under the cir- 
cumstances to have abandoned the effort and thrown the respon- 
sibility on unforeseen vicissitudes of war. But the men of the State 
Engineer's department were not of a temper to accept defeat thus 
easily and it was decided to put the program through. 

Fortunately for the success of the venture these men had but 
vague prescience then of the difficulties that were to beset the way 
or the mountain-high obstacles that were to tax their utmost abilities. 
Most of the difficulties were due to war conditions. Labor and 
materials had increased enormously in cost and were hard and some- 

334 History of the Barge Canal 

times even impossible to get at any price. Transportation routes 
were congested almost to a standstill. Shipments of materials were 
sometimes lost and often they were commandeered en route for 
Government construction. Embargoes almost without number were 
in force against shipments. The necessity of obtaining priority 
orders to allow any shipments to be made involved vexatious delays 
and moreover canal work never was given a class "A" priority rating. 
There was an acute shortage of coal. Men engaged on canal con- 
tracts were frequently taken for army service or were drawn into 
shipyards or munition plants. An extreme instance of this latter 
practice may be cited. The erection of the railroad bridge at Brew- 
erton was begun six weeks before May 15. If this bridge were not 
erected, navigation would be blocked. Three full gangs of erectors 
were lost one after the other within a period of five weeks by being 
taken to shipyards, but nevertheless on May 15 the bridge was ready. 
At another railroad bridge, one at Pittsford, much the same thing 
occurred and this bridge too was completed on time. But to cap 
it all there were also hindrances not attributable to the war. As the 
strenuous year of work advanced and unexpected delays occurred, 
the more necessary it became to increase the speed on the remaining 
work. This made the winter of 1917-18 one of intense activity. 
But it so happened that this winter brought more severe weather 
conditions than had been experienced in many a year. 

To appreciate the magnitude and the difficulty of the task we must 
learn how the several obstacles were met and overcome, and to do 
this we must examine a few of the more conspicuous of these in 
detail. In this study we shall see also what expedients were employed 
when the carrying out of earlier plans was barred. We shall per- 
ceive that several pieces of work were so interdependent that the 
doing of one necessitated the doing of the whole series in proper 
sequence and failure at any point would have broken the chain and 
prevented the canal opening. We shall realize how on several occa- 
sions the defeat of the whole plan of opening the canal on the 
appointed day was averted by the narrowest margin. Moreover 
the pieces of work we are about to examine were not small in volume. 
One contract alone, that at Lyons, involved a cost of over $850,000 
and required the employment of a large plant of high-grade 
excavating machinery. 

At the beginning of 1917 the greater part of the work remaining 
to be done was situated in the vicinity of Rochester. It was realized 
that all which remained in this locality could not be completed by 

Rapid Completion under War Stress 335 

the spring of 1918, but fortunately much of it was located on the 
spur that stretches from the main line of the canal to the Rochester 
terminal harbor. The scheme of canal construction at this point 
has carried the main channel south of the city and across the Gene- 
see river in a pool formed by a dam which is placed about two miles 
downstream, in fact almost in the heart of the city. Before 1917 
was far gone it became evident that this permanent dam could not 
be completed and so a temporary structure was erected, which would 
maintain the jjool at the crossing of the river and give a main chan- 
nel of full depth for through canal traffic. But this plan would cut 
Rochester off from any possibility of being reached by canal boats 
during 1918. Accordingly a lock was built in the old canal where 
the new channel joined it west of the city and the old canal was 
used for access to the city. Of course only old-sized boats could 
navigate the old waterway, but it was the best that could be done 
and Rochester had to be content. Even to carry out this program of 
expedients unflagging zeal and persistent effort alone achieved 

In the spring of 1917 it became evident that the contractor work- 
ing in the vicinity of Lyons would not finish his section in time for 
the proposed opening. Here was an instance of interrelated pieces 
of work. Dependent on the completion of the channel in this vicinity 
was the removal of the Montezuma aqueduct, the structure which 
carried the old canal across the Seneca river and which had to be 
removed to make way for the Barge canal channel in the bed of the 
river. While the aqueduct stood there would be navigation within 
the old channel ; to navigate the new canal the structure must be 
removed; but with the aqueduct gone and the Lyons section not 
completed there would be no navigation, either by the old or the new 
route. It was vitally necessary for the plan of completion, there- 
fore, that there should be no uncertainty about finishing the Lyons 
work. To insure this result the Canal Board terminated the contract 
and instructed the Superintendent of Public Works to proceed with 
the work. With his larger resources he was able to make such 
progress that it was safe to demolish the Montezuma aqueduct after 
the close of the 1917 navigation season. Both the Lyons section of 
new canal and the removal of the aqueduct were completed on time. 

In Tonawanda creek was another case of interdependent con- 
ditions. To make possible a Barge canal channel it was 'necessary 
to remove a dam which maintained the level in the creek for old 
canal navigation. This dam had to remain in place of course till 

336 History oj the Barge Canal 

the end of the 1917 season. After it was removed old canal naviga- 
tion was destroyed and the new channel could not be used till several' 
railroad and highway bridges spanning the creek had been rebuilt. 
or underpinned, and this bridge work could not be begun until the 
dam was removed. Swift and well-planned action was demanded 

As the appointed day drew near it became evident that the great 
concrete trough which carries the Barge canal on a high embank- 
ment across the Irondequoit valley and also some adjacent excavating 
could not be completed on time by the contractor doing the work. 
With only a few weeks left the State suspended this contract in 
March, 1918, and undertook the task of completion. By assembling 
men and machinery from every possible source the Superintendent 
of Public Works was able to speed up operations and finish in time. 
In other instances also men or plants were transferred from the less 
critical to the more critical points. For example, the contractor 
working on the Rochester harbor was ordered to shift his excavating 
machines to the main line of the canal. 

Only a few weeks before May 15 it was seen that the stringent 
condition of the market would not allow the Pennsylvania Railroad 
company to obtain the steel for its crossing of the Barge canal just 
west of the Genesee river. For a time it seemed as if this failure 
would frustrate the whole scheme of opening the canal. By ready 
action, however, it was arranged to divert the entire traffic of this 
road, first to the Erie railroad, then to the West Shore railroad and 
then back to the original line. Thus the Pennsylvania embankment 
could be cut and this was done just in time to let the water through 
for the opening day. 

As the time drew nearer and nearer the tension imder which all 
had been laboring grew more tense. Day and night the work had 
been going on, three shifts of men being used in some places. Any 
mishap now, it seemed, would be most disastrous. On May i it 
looked as though the junction lock west of Rochester could not be 
completed, but by supplying the contractor with men and teams from 
among those collected for the Irondequoit job delay was averted. 
Ten days before the date for opening the canal came the mishap 
which appeared for a while to be the fatal last straw. The banks 
in a portion of the canal located in Tonawanda creek sHd into the 
channel. At first a delayed opening seemed inevitable, but by most 
energetic efforts a hydraulic dredge was rushed to the spot and 
within twenty-four hours after the slide occurred was at work 


Rapid Completion under War Stress 337 

reopening the channel. At the gijard-lock east of the Genesee river, 
however, was enacted the most dramatic scene of all. Night and 
day the men worked and on the morning of May 15 with the incom- 
ing caned water rising around their waists the final work was done. 
This was also the final work of all that needed to be done before a 
Barge canal channel of full depth could be opened across the whole 
state from end to end of the new waterway. The seemingly impos- 
sible task had been accomplished; the canal was opened on the 
appointed day. 

We can appreciate now with what satisfaction the men gathered 
on the evening of May 15 in unpretentious celebration. These were 
the men, the comparatively small company of engineers and con- 
tractors sitting there at dinner, who had led the forces in the mighty 
undertaking which had culminated that day in success. But the 
world did not applaud. It was at grips with death just then and 
did not so much as hear of the event. Even the people of New 
York state were too absorbed to give it more than a passing glance. 
In peace times this would have been a momentous occasion. In 
reality it was significant, but everybody was then engaged in heroic 
tasks and this passed as but one among the many such deeds. 

A few days earlier there had been a very modest ceremony con- 
nected with the last stages of preparing the canal for opening. The 
new canal channel on both sides of the place where it crosses the 
Genesee river had been dug as dry excavation, since more rapid 
progress could be made by that means, and a narrow dike had been 
left at each river bank. On May 10, in the presence of a small com- 
pany consisting of members of the engineering staff and a few 
prominent citizens, State Engineer Williams, with a shovel taken 
from one of the laborers, opened a ditch across the dike at the west- 
ern bank of the river, letting the waters of the Genesee through to 
the new channel. This was the last barrier in the whole new water- 
way. A half hour earlier the dike at the east river bank had been 
similarly cut. 

By way of comparison it is most interesting to refer to what the 
chronicler of the original Erie canal had to say concerning the 
removal of the last barrier to through navigation on the first State 
waterway. The place of final work was at what the early builders 
termed the " mountain ridge," just west of Lockport. Here was 
" the spot," said the narrator, " where the waters were to meet when 
the last blow was struck," and where " nature had interposed her 
strongest barrier to the enterprises and the strength of man." This 

338 History of the Barge Canal 

phrase indicates a marvelous difference between the two undertak- 
ings. To the earlier builder the excavation of rock was a supreme 
difficulty. But no longer has rock excavation the terrors of old. 
The wide and deep channel of the Barge canal through many rock 
cuts has occasioned no anxiety. Modern machinery has wrought the 
change. A comparison of the methods employed at this mountain 
ridge in building the first and the latest canals presents at least one 
particularly interesting commentary on the differences of the times. 
Hand labor and crude horse-driven derricks were the tools of the 
early builder. For the Barge canal the old cut through this same 
mountain ridge has been deepened and widened, but in doing the 
work man used his head instead of his hands. The great cataract 
at Niagara, operating through powerful modern machines, was the 
genie which the builder of today commanded to carve the new 



Canal Completed in Time for War Use — High Hope of Result of Govern- 
ment Control — Call for State Canal Convention — Marshaling National 
Transportation Media — Government Investigates Barge Canal — Action 
by Canal Corvuention — Delays- — Government Assumes Control — 
Announcement Hailed with Joy — ■Disappointment Follows — Nature of 
Federal Control — Review of Situation by Mr. Gardner — Interview 
with Director General of Railroads — Unsatisfactory Results — Superin- 
tendent Wotherspoon's View of Federal Control — Other Views — Clamor 
for Return of Canal after War — Official Opinions on Effect of Con- 
tinued Control — Federal Domination Somewhat Lessened — Control 
Transferred to Secretary of War — Opinion as to Reason for Action — 
State Attempts to End Control — Hearings on Resolution to Return 
Canal — Government Operation Continued Another Year — Resume of 
Federal Control and Arraignment for Its Inefficiency. 

WE HAVE seen how by almost superhuman efforts the State 
Engineer and others of his department, assisted by the 
Superintendent of Pubhc Works, the contractors and 
their many workmen, had succeeded in opening a channel of full 
depth throughout the entire length of the Barge canal for the 
beginning of the 191 8 navigation season. It was a magnificent 
spectacle. Driven by the spur of unselfish patriotism each had done 
his bit to complete the canal, and now it was ready to serve the 
Federal government in a great emergency, even at the time of its 
supremest need; it could relieve a congestion in the transportation 
of war munitions and equally essential industrial commodities that 
was becoming well-nigh perilous. 

A few weeks before the canal was finished it had been announced 
that the waterways of the country had been taken over by the 
Federal authorities and would be operated, together with the rail- 
ways, as emergent war transportation media. With considerable 
self-satisfaction, therefore, the people of the state, and especially 
those who had labored so hard to accomplish this result, congratu- 
lated themselves that they had thus been permitted to render no 
small service to their country, even deeming the opportune comple- 
tion of the Barge canal at this time almost providential. If this 
were all of the story, we also could contemplate the event with equal 


340 History of the Barge Canal 

satisfaction, but the sequel presents a diflferent tale. From the 
magnificent picture of exalted selflessness we turn, if we may credit 
the evidence, to one of sordid selfishness. We might almost consider 
the denouement amusing, were it not so serious. Perhaps it is 
indeed a rare joke to the opponents of the canal; certainly not to its 
friends. The account of Government control of New York water- 
ways surely forms an interesting chapter in Barge canal history but 
in its ultimate outcome it is one which cannot be recalled with any 
complacency by canal supporters. Urged upon the Federal authori- 
ties through a high sense of patriotic duty, this control fell to a base 
misuse of authority for selfish ends ; acclaimed as a means whereby 
years would be saved in building up a Barge canal traffic, it proved 
in the end to be almost a death blow to any hope of a successful 
trjiffic on the new waterway. 

But to follow the history of this movement we must turn back 
to the early days of America's entrance into the World war. The 
first concerted public action in this matter resulted from the calling 
of what was termed, for the want of a better name, a State Canal 
Convention. This body met in Albany on August i, 1917, its pur- 
pose, according to the language of the summons, being " to consider 
and devise measures to bring the Barge canal to perform the world 
service of which it is capable, to bring its great value as a means of 
transportation to the immediate attention of the national government, 
and to secure the cooperation of the Governor and the Legislature 
of this state for the achievement of these purposes." The initiative 
in issuing this call was taken by Frank S. Gardner, secretary of the 
New York Board of Trade and Transportation, but in reality the 
convention had been for some time in the making and was but the 
natural outcome of the unusual situation then confronting the 

Prior to this convention, however, the subject had received much 
thought and attention and various activities related to it had been 
started. When the country had passed from a state of neutrality 
to one of belligerency it began the mighty task of marshaling its 
resources, a task made greater by the very abundance and diversity 
of those resources, and among the multitudinous problems it 
encountered, that of transportation permeated them all. Those in 
W'ashington who had to do with these matters appreciated the 
important place waterways held in any plan to utilize to the full the 
transportation agencies of the country and accordingly the Depart- 
ment of Commerce, after a quick survey of the situation under the 

United Stales Control 341 

personal direction of Secretary Redfield, had inaugurated a campaign 
for bringing about the use of these waterways, appealing to the 
country for a full utilization of existing facilities and urging upon 
citizens and communities the rehabilitation of worn-out and the 
building of new equipment. Then a bureau of inland waterways 
was organized in the Department of Commerce, with a transportation 
expert at its head. This department was working in close coopera- 
tion with the National Council of Defense, which also had appointed 
a special committee on waterways. In addition State Engineer Wil- 
liams and Superintendent of Public Works Wotherspoon tendered 
to the Government the canal as it then was and offered their own 
services and those of the State to hasten its completion as soon as 
was humanly possible. Because of his former army position and 
acquaintances General Wotherspoon's words carried especial weight. 
Also George Clinton brought the matter to President Wilson's atten- 
tion and was personally assured by the President that he would 
place the subject before the proper authorities with his full approval. 

This agitation brought the Barge canal prominently before the 
Washington authorities and as a result the National Council of 
Defense appointed a subcommittee to tour New York state and 
investigate the canals. The report of these men was not made 
public, but it is generally thought that their impressions were not 
altogether favorable, at least so far as the immediate use of the 
canal was concerned. At that time, it will be recalled, certain 
stretches of the new canal were still to be completed, new shipping 
had not been built and the supply of old boats was deplorably 
inadequate. General Wotherspoon said that the two men consti- 
tuting the committee to tour the state came in response to his cor- 
respondence with General William M. Black, the chairman of the 
committee on Inland Water Transportation, and were accompanied 
on their trip by members of his department, also that they expressed 
themselves as satisfied that the canal itself possessed all the physical 
and economical elements required for success, but that, as was 
obvious to everybody, the boats to make possible this success were 

There was an apparent disposition on the part of all concerned, 
however, to utilize New York's waterway, but in spite of all that 
had been done, tangible results did not follow, either in using the 
canal or in preparing to use it, and the canal enthusiasts of the 
state grew restive. Believing profoundly that the Barge canal 
would be New York's greatest war contribution to the nation, they 

342 History of the Barge Canal 

were impatient of any delay in its service, and so the convention of 
August I, 1917, was called. 

This convention was attended by representatives of the State 
Waterways Association and many civic bodies, also the mayors of 
cities and numerous other prominent persons. Its action took the 
form of petitioning the Legislature, then convened in extraordinary 
session, to memoriahze the President of the United States, the; 
National Council of Defense, the Secretary of War, the Secretary 
of Commerce and the Committee on Inland Waterways, calling at- 
tention to the availability of the New York canals and urging their 
use to the fullest possible extent. The backing sought by this con- 
vention was obtained. The Canal Board by action of August 21 
endorsed the movement; the Legislature three days later memorial- 
ized the Federal authorities and Governor Whitman formally trans- 
mitted the documents to President Wilson and other officials at 

But it was several months before any definite action was taken. 
Meantime the canal was nearing completion. On January 31, 1918, 
State Engineer Williams appeared personally before the Senate 
Committee on Commerce, in the course of its investigation of mat- 
ters connected with the building of merchant vessels under the 
direction of the Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation, and 
informed the members that the Barge canal would be open through- 
out its entire length the following spring, but that boats for use 
upon it would be sadly lacking, and moreover that it was virtually 
impossible for private enterprise to construct boats, and if the canal 
was to be utiUzed as a military adjunct, it became the duty of the 
Federal authorities either to build the floating equipment or to 
assist by some method in providing it. Also various plans were sub- 
mitted to the Government by individuals and these generally in- 
volved financial aid to private canal transportation companies, which 
it was proposed to organize. 

Finally, however, — on April 10, 1918, — members of the inland 
waterways committee appointed by the director general of[ rail- 
roads, Mr. McAdoo, appeared before the Canal Board and re- 
quested the cooperation of the authorities charged with adminis- 
tering State canal affairs in an effort to bring about a coordination 
in the use of the railroads and the State canal system during the 
period of the war. This was just what canal men had been striv- 
ing for and the Canal Board gladly assented. In the words of its 
resolution it " assured the director general that the officials of the 

United States Control 343 

State of New York in charge of the operation and maintenance of 
the canals of the State were ready, wilHng and anxious to cooperate 
with the director general in the utilization of the canals to the 
fullest possible extent." A special committee of the Canal Board, 
in company with the Federal committee, at once waited upon the 
Governor and an expression of the willingness of the State to 
cooperate with the National government in its plans was formally 
transmitted by him to the Washington authorities. On April i8 
formal announcement was made by the director general that he 
would secure boats and establish an operating organization to utilize 
the State canals. 

This announcement was hailed with joy. Some persons went so 
far as to say that this use of the new waterway in the time of the 
nation's direst need would justify the cost of its building even if 
it were never used afterward. Canal advocates, besides being 
pleased because they seemed to have builded better than they knew, 
saw in the action of the Government the promise of an unexpected 
ally, nothing less than that which appeared likely to accomplish in 
months what it would naturally have taken years to bring about. 
They had realized what a herculean task was before the canal in 
the building up of a traffi-C, how only by years of unabating toil 
could commerce accustomed to .other lines be diverted to the canal. 
Here was the hope that by what may be considered artificial means 
this metamorphosis was to be attained. Here was a supreme power, 
having absolute authority over all transportation,^ that at will could 
route traffic where it pleased. The usual courses were choked and 
it seemed inevitable that the canal would get a large share of this 

But their dreams were not to come true. Neither were the ex- 
pectations of the people of the state at large to be realized concern- 
ing their supposed munificent contribution to the country's emer- 
gent need. Gradually it became evident that these fair hopes were 
doomed to disappointment. First came the announcement that 
canal and rail rates were to be equal. Later tliis ruling was changed 
and canal rates had a twenty per cent differential. The official 
announcement that no private lines would be allowed on the canal 
elicited such a storm of protest that it was followed by a disavowal 
of any intent to forbid private operation of boats. To state in a 
word the history of Government control over New York canals it 
may be said that apparently the transportation lines were operated 
solely for the benefit of the railroads and that private companies 

344 History of the Barge Canal 

were in effect excluded from the canal because no one under exist- 
ing circumstances would compete with the Federal government. 
Canal men believe that the railroad interests dominating the Gov- 
ernment control deliberately misused their temporary authority to 
injure the canal, but of course positive evidence of such purpose 
is lacking. The retention of the waterways, however, after the 
railways were turned back to their owners, seems to indicate that 
some influence ill-disposed toward canals was working. But we 
shall let the men who were in close touch with the whole situation 
tell the story in their own words. 

First, however, it may be well to explain the nature of the Fed- 
eral .operation of the New York canals. People in general had 
little understanding as to what had actually taken place. The 
State did not lose possession of its canals; tmder the Constitution 
it cann.ot. Moreover it still continued to maintain and operate both 
the channel itself and its structures, just as it has always done, 
bearing all the expense of this operation. The State's position in 
regard to its canals was scarcely changed in any particular. Unlike 
its administration of the railroads the Federal goverimient did not 
guarantee the payment of dividends nor provide for the upkeep of 
the property, nor in fact did it assume any financial obligation what- 
soever connected directly with the canal itself. This fact should 
be remembered for a better appreciation of the Government's atti- 
tude toward the canal, as it is revealed by the men we are about 
to quote. What the Government really did was something which the 
State had never done, namely, to take over control, either directly 
or indirectly, of the floating equipment on the canal. Its position 
was somewhat analogous to that of a large transportation company 
which was building boats and operating them on a State-owned 
canal. It obtained control of a large proportion of the boats that 
had been in use during recent years and built some new boats. 
The Government, however, was much more than a mere transporta- 
tion company, for it stood ready to control all shipping on the 
canal, assuming the right under authority of Congress to com- 
mandeer any and all boats doing business on the waterway and 
even to direct the activities of those it did not commandeer. 

At the convention of the State Waterways Association on No- 
vember 7, 1918, Frank S. Gardner, the man who had conceived the 
idea of the special convention of August i, 1917, told of an inter- 
view certain New York representatives had with the director general 
of railroads. What he said is enlightening. It runs as follows: 

United States Control 345 

" Mr. President and Gentlemen : At the request of Senator 
Hill, I have put on paper a few facts regarding our interview with 
Mr. McAdoo in Washington on the 25th .of last month, what he 
said, and the result of his policies. 

" The conditions existing upon the canals of the state which have 
been created by the policy of the Railroad Administration consti- 
tute a cause for much concern to the state and to all of her 
business interests, and I venture to suggest that this Association at 
this time consider what steps should be taken to protect our busi- 
ness interests under the circumstances. 

" Most of the gentlemen here present are aware of the fact that 
the |New York State Barge Canal Conference met at Albany on 
August I, 191 7, and petitioned the New Y.ork State Legislature, 
then in extra session, to memorialize the officials of the United 
States Government and to urge them to make the fullest possible 
use of our state canals for transporting to the seaboard the food 
and military supplies to maintain our armies, and the food and other 
supplies for the armies and people of our Allies abroad; that the 
JSFew York Legislature on August 24, 191 7, did so memorialize the 
Federal Government and that such memorial was formally trans- 
mitted by Governor Whitman to President Wilson and other 
principal officials. 

" S.ome eight months elapsed without any definite action in the 
matter by the United States Government. At the end of that time 
the Federal Railroad Administration announced that it had taken 
over control of navigation upon the canals of this state. The 
general public were quite in a dilemma as to what actually had been 
done and the officials themselves of the Railroad Administration ap- 
peared to be in some confusion, because they and their representa- 
tives made announcements which were generally understood to 
extend Railroad Administration control over all operations of all 
boats upon our canals. 

" Shortly prior to June 25, 1918, the Railroad Administration 
announced that canal and rail rates would be upon a parity, and 
that the usual differential would not be allowed to freight via 
the canals. 

" This order as issued was understood as applying to all freight 
carried by canal whether in boats operated by the Railroad Adminis- 
tration or by private individuals and corporations. In fact a circu- 
lar issuing from the office in New York of the Canal Section of the 
Railroad Administration announced that no private canal lines would 

346 Hislory of the Barge Canal 

be permitted to carry freight upon the canals for their own account. 
This caused consternation among shippers and carriers by canal and 
was regarded as a calamity to this state and all of its business inter- 

" The situation into which our canals were thus apparently 
brought was the subject of unfavorable criticism by a number of 
influential organizations and by many important newspapers, and 
soon elicited from the Chairman of the Canal Section a disavowal 
of any purpose to forbid private operation of boats. 

" This public discussion was. followed by announcement by the 
Railroad Administration, published June 23d, that the rail rates 
would be advanced 25 per cent on June 25th, but that the canal 
rates would be allowed to remain at the then existing rail rates. 
This was a partial recognition of the natural difference in rates 
between rail and canal and was made after a call had been issued 
for a meeting of the New York State Barge Canal Conference 
to be held in Albany on June 26, 1918, to consider the situation. 

" The Barge Canal Conference on June 26, after full considera- 
tion adopted an address to the Director General of Railroads, 
expressing the views of the Conference, and appointed a committee 
to submit such views to the Director General in person. It also 
appointed a special committee of traffic men to prepare a statement 
showing the relation between rates by the canals and by the rail- 
roads, and the rates which should be charged upon them, respec- 
tively, and the reasons for a substantial diflference between them. 

" The Committee of the Conference was unable to get an appoint- 
ment with Mr. McAdoo until the 24th of last month, nearly four 
months elapsing, and they then proceeded to Washington. On 
Friday morning, October 25th, they met Mr. McAdoo, who was 
attended by Judge Edward Chamber, Director of Traffic, Mr. Carl 
Gray, Director of Operation, and Mr. Oscar A. Price, all of the 
Railroad Administration. 

" It was my privilege to be present at this interview, and several 
gentlemen who are attending your meeting today were also there. 
I listened with much interest and attention to what Mr. McAdoo 
had to say. The interview covered fully an hour and a half, and 
while much pleased with Mr. McAdoo's courtesy, patience and 
frankness, I was soon impressed with the fact a most grievous mis- 
take had been made by our Barge Canal Conference on August i, 
191 7, in appealing to the Federal Government to make use of our 
canals. In saying this I must confess that I had a part in bringing 

United States Contol 347 

about the action of August i, 1917, which to me now appears to 
have been so fatal to the very object we desired to accomplish, viz. : 
to induce the Federal Government to take such measures as would 
result in the greatest possible use of our canals. 

" I am now convinced, from what Mr. McAdoo said to us on 
October 25th, that the measures he has adopted and the policies 
he proclaims, will not result in the greatest use of our canals, but 
will wholly subordinate their use to the enhancing of railroad 
revenues and the non-use of the canals wherever their use can be 

" With much frankness Mr. McAdoo assured us that boats when 
operated by private individuals or corporations would not be inter- 
fered with; that they could charge any rates they saw fit, and he 
was willing to guarantee that private boats would not be com- 
mandeered by the Railroad Administration, but as to this he could 
not speak for the Army or the Navy. 

" In response to an inquiry referring to building new boats for 
private operation he said : ' If so much steel as w.ould be needed 
to make a tenpenny nail — and it is just about as close as that — 
should be needed to carry on the war it would have to be so used 
and could not be devoted to building canal boats.' 

" It was also brought out that the Railroad Administration had 
started practically all the usable existing boats, and as the discus- 
sion proceeded it was quite clear that, notwithstanding the promises 
of non-interference of private operation of boats, the obstacles 
created to private operation were insurmountable. 

" He said that a number of steel boats and a number of concrete 
boats were being constructed for the Railroad Administration. 

" He asserted that the Railroad Administration has full power 
to route all freight by such lines as it thinks proper, and, upon 
inquiry, defended the policy of sending boats empty from New 
York to Buffalo on the ground that to send them loaded, ' at any 
old rate,' would reduce the railroad revenues. He said he could 
not approve of the boats created by the Government taking rates 
so low as to reduce the revenues of the railroads. 

" Mr. McAdoo was asked if the Railroad Administration would 
be willing to make arrangements by which freight could be shipped 
to interior points in the West or from such points to the East, via 
rail and canal on through shipment and through bill of lading, 
giving the freight the advantage of the lower canal rates for the 
water portion of the carry. 

348 History of the Barge Canal 

" Mr. McAdoo said he did not think the Administration could 
do that because it would destroy their rail rates. 

" This being the policy of the Railroad Administration, for which 
Mr. McAdoo declared himself alone to be responsible, will result 
in subordinating the canals to the railroad policy and will keep 
canal rates upon an approximate parity with rail rates, and he 
further plainly intimated that, having the power to route all freight, 
it will not be routed via the canal so long as the railroads can carry 
it. This, manifestly, must dispel all hope for the greatest possible 
use of the canals in the near future or during the continuance of 
Railroad Administration control of navigation on the canals. 

" In conclusion, therefore, I repeat what I said in the beginning. 
The conditions existing upon the canals of this state which have 
been created by the policy of the Railroad Administration, con- 
stitute a cause for much concern to the state and to all of her 
business interests, and I venture to suggest that this Association, 
at this time, consider what steps should be taken to protect our 
business interests under the circumstances." * 

General Wotherspoon spoke at this same convention. The follow- 
ing words of his concerning Federal control are worth quoting: 

" If any discussion were to be had as to the disadvantages of 
the Federal control of canal freight, I would mention particularly 
the fact diat the entrance of private capital into the field was 
absolutely discouraged. Three reasons have been advanced for 
this condition: First, the available Erie Canal boating equipment 
had been secured by the Government, and individuals could not 
accomplish the construction of new craft in time to be used the 
present year, since no materials for boat construction could be 
obtained without the greatest difficulty. 

" Second. The understanding that private companies, if formed 
would have been compelled to operate under the supervision of the 
United States Railroad Administration, with no guarantee that 
their boats would not be requisitioned by the Government for other 

" Third. That no private companies cared to compete with the 
Federal authorities in canal business. 

" It is true, of course, that so far as the second and third reasons 
are concerned, about mid-summer an effort was made by the 
National Government to relieve the impression that the field was 
not open also to independent carriers, but such announcements 

* Ninth Annual Report, N. Y. State Waterways Association, pp. 48-51. 

United States Control 34^ 

came too late for practical purposes during the present year at 
least. In this connection it is significant to note that from the 
day the announcement was made that the movement of canal freight 
would be controlled by the Federal authorities, I have had scarcely 
a single call from any interest having in mind the formation of a 
private boat company, while previous to that date hardly a day 
passed but the subject was discussed with one or more callers." * 

In General Wotherspoon's opinion, however, the advantages of. 
Government control during the first year of the new canal's opera- 
tion outweighed the disadvantages. It was of the utmost benefit 
to the waterway during this season, he declared, that traffic should 
be under a centralized control, rather than that boats should be 
operated as individual units, as had been the general practice there- 
tofore, and also that such service as was furnished should have 
been rendered by a dependable and responsible carrier. He con- 
sidered, moreover, that the general merchandise service which the 
railroad administration had inaugurated at his suggestion was a 
long step toward bringing home to the citizens of the state the 
advantages of waterway transportation. Also in 1918 for the first 
time rates had been stabilized by publication in tariff form. He 
doubted whether the transportation of freight on a large scale 
could have been accomplished during the year without Federal 
control. As a matter of fact there was a complete absence of 
prospective carriers in sufficient numbers a year earlier. The field 
was carefully investigated at that time by the subcommittee of the 
National Council of Defense, as we have already seen, and while 
several companies then claimed a corporate existence none was 
ready actually to engage in business without considerable financial 
aid from the Government. 

Although General Wotherspoon held this favorable opinion of 
the season's traffic, at the same time he advocated that Federal 
control should continue after the close of the war no longer than 
would be required to adjust business conditions on a peace basis. 

A view of the situation which existed subsequent to the war is 
found in the following quotation. It comes from a paper read 
before the State Waterways Association on November 20, 1919, 
by Edward T. Gushing, of the New York Produce Exchange. 

" It is for the interest of the government," he said, " to kill 
any competition of the canal with the railroads, for even if the 
railroads were returned to their owners, the government would 

*Id., p. 41. 

350 History of the Barge Canal 

still guarantee their earnings. No sane man will compete with the 
Federal Government. What an object lesson in paternalism! The 
fear of it is today paralyzing the operation of the greatest inland 
waterway in the world. Here is the biggest thing ever played f.or 
in railroad history. The stake — one hundred and fifty million 
dollars of the people's money invested in the Barge canal; the 
contestants — the United Railroads, backed by the Federal gov- 
ernment, against the people of the state of New York." * 

Another quotation, this time from an address made by Edward 
S. Walsh, Superintendent of Public Works in 1919 and 1920, 
before the State Waterways Association at this same 1919 con- 

" I made every effort," said Mr. Walsh, " to persuade the United 
States Grain Corporation to utilize the canal facilities, but without 
success. Explanation for the failure .of the Grain Corporation to 
employ the water route, particularly when it was announced broad- 
cast throughout the country that a serious car shortage was impend- 
ing, did not explain. I, therefore, am forced to the conclusion that 
the routing of grain from Buffalo by rail to the utter exclusion of 
the canal, was either the result of poor business judgment or dis- 
crimination of the rankest nature against the waterways of the 
state." t 

With the war at an end and no longer any reason existing for 
continuing Federal control. State officials and canal advocates began 
clamoring for the Government to relinquish all authority over canal 
trafiSc and to cease operating its boats. But again they were doomed 
to disappointment and for two seasons more the United States 
authorities retained their hold on the canal. 

Of the effect of this experience State Engineer Williams says 
in his 1920 annual report, " The designers of the canal had con- 
templated that it could not be expected to reach its maximum 
carrying capacity within a period of less than five years and this 
conclusion was arrived at without foreseeing the conditions of war, 
which have completely upset the ordinary and usual economic 
development that could have been reasonably looked forward to. 
In view of the almost prohibitive costs of material and equipment, 
it is doubtful if any new transportation medium of whatever nature 

♦Tenth Annual Report, N. Y. State Waterways Assodation, p. 16. 
t/rf., p. 45. 

Uniled States Control 351 

could reasonably be expected to attain any marked development 
within the two and one-half years since the Barge canal has been 
opened. Our present rail transportation systems show little signs 
of material recovery from the staggering blows dealt them during 
the period named, although prior to the war they were justly pre- 
sumed to be developed normally with the increased demands made 
upon them. To my mind, development of transportation on the 
canal has been set back fully three years, owing to the conditions 
through which we have passed and are now passing." 

From the Superintendent of Public Works we hear further' of 
this baneful influence and also learn what changes were taking 
place in the status of canal control. In his annual report, presented 
to the Legislature on January 15, 1920, Superintendent Walsh said: 

" The task of restoring trafHc to the waterways is a difficult one 
at best and nothing must be permitted to stand in the way of its 
progress. The first requisite in the undertaking is the formation 
of many strongly-financed, well-equipped carriers. I find there 
are men who look with favor on canal transportation projects and 
• are eager to engage in the business under certain conditions, and 
one of the controlling conditions is that Federal utilization, con- 
trol and jurisdiction of the waterways be discontinued. Few, if 
any, shipping men are willing to compete with a subsidized Federal 
canal service that operates without regard to cost and that assumes 
no obligation to produce a profit from its operations. The situa- 
tion on the canals, therefore, if new companies are to be formed 
who will provide a service that will build up the tonnage, demands 
the termination of Federal control or utilization. 

" I had believed the termination of the Federal Control Act, 
returning the rail system to their owners, would free the water- 
ways from the obstructing Federal influence. Transportation legis- 
lation pending in Congress, however, does not definitely establish 
the status of the inland waterways on which the government had 
operated barges and it is proposed to transfer the government's 
inland waterway activities from the Railroad Administration to the 
United States Shipping Board, to be dealt with by the Shipping 
Board under the provisions of the ' Shipping Act, 1916.' If, in 
this manner, the government should continue its canal operations 
through the agency of the Shipping Board, the situation would be 
unchanged. There would still remain in operation a govern- 
mentally subsidized transportation service with which private enter- 

352 History of the Barge Canal 

prise is reluctant to compete, in fact, with which it declines to 
attempt to compete. 

" I do not understand that the Shipping Board is authorized 
under the Shipping Act to operate vessels or barges it controls, but 
must permit of their purchase, lease or charter when persons or 
corporations came forward with a proposition that satisfied the 
terms and conditions of the purchase, lease or charter prescribed 
by the Shipping Board. If, therefore, pending legislation will be 
the means of terminating the Federal government's activities on 
the New York waterways and of releasing government barge equip- 
ment for private .operation, the problem confronting the State is 
solved. On the other hand, if the measure now before Congress 
does not have such effect, I urge upon your honorable body the 
imperative necessity of the introduction in Congress and early 
passage of legislation that will rid the waterways of the State of 
the destructive governmental operation." 

In 1919, however. Federal domination was somewhat lessened in 
degree. This was brought about largely through the efforts of 
Superintendent Walsh and we shall let him tell of it in his own 
words. In this same annual report he said: 

" In view of the disastrous effect of Federal control of canal 
rates and equipment, as practiced by the Federal government during 
the 1918 season of navigation, determination was reached early in 
the year to limit and modify the extent of Federal jurisdiction. 

" Several conferences were held with officials of the United 
States Railroad Administration and agreement reached as to the 
scope of the Federal government's activities during the 1919 season 
of navigation. First, the Railroad Administration agreed to waive 
its option of recharter on the 100 or more individually owned 
barges that it operated during 191 8. By this agreement the inde- 
pendent barges were released for operation by their owners. 
Second, the government agreed that it would not control or attempt 
to control, either directly or indirectly, the operations of such 
independent canal carriers as might be established nor the local 
rates such carriers might publish. Third, the government agreed 
to operate the barges it had built in a through Buffalo-New York 
service exclusively and would not enter into competition with inde- 
pendent operators in the intermediate territory. Fourth, the Rail- 
road Administration officials agreed that they would not attempt 
to influence the movements of the grain traffic from Buffalo and 

Uniled States Control 353 

that independent operators might compete for such traffic on equal 
terms with the government barges. Fifth, the government agreed 
to establish a line of rates applying from New England and New 
York via canal and lake to western territory and would restore a 
service on the Great Lakes to Lake Michigan ports. Sixth, the 
government consented to establish canal and rail rates through all 
practical points of interchange if and when traffic was created 
making such rates necessary." 

Early in 1920 the railroads of the country were returned by act 
of Congress to their former private owners. It had been supposed 
that Federal jurisdiction over the New York canals also would 
cease whenever the railroad systems were given back. They had 
been taken under authority of the same act as the railroads, known 
as the Federal Control Act, and moreover it had been the under- 
standing of New York State officials that Government tenure was 
merely for the period of the war. When the bill to restore the 
railroads was pending in Congress it was said that some provision 
would be incorporated which would have to do with the policy of 
the Government towards inland waterways. Accordingly those in 
charge of canal affairs in New York were at considerable pains to. 
caution the representatives of the State in Congress against per- 
mitting anything to be embodied in the bill which would continue 
Federal activities on the New York canals. Also inquiry of the 
conference committees of both Houses having the bill in hand 
brought the response that there was no provision that in any way 
affected adversely the New York canals. Shortly before the pas- 
sage of the bill, however, it was learned in New York state that 
this assurance was in error. The bill as proposed by the conference 
committee provided that all barges on inland and coastwise water- 
ways acquired by the United States in pursuance of the Federal 
Control Act were to be transferred to the Secretary of War and 
operated by him, so as to continue the lines of inland water trans- 
portation established during Federal control. The meaning of this 
provision was clear. Under it Government operations on the New 
York waterways would be continued. The New York members 
of Congress were immediately urged to have the bill amended so 
as specifically to exclude New York canals from its provisions. 
The sponsors of the bill, the chairman of the House Committee on 
Interstate and Foreign Commerce and the chairman of the Senate 
Interstate Commerce Committee, both declared that prior to the 
drafting of this section of the bill they had been informed that the 

354 History of the Barge Canal 

Government had not taken over any transportation facilities on the 
New York canals nor was it engaged in operating any boats on 
them. Moreover, they were both opposed personally to such opera- 
tion if it was not desired by the people of the state. 

The explanation of this occurrence we can only guess at. Super- 
intendent Walsh's interpretation, however, is illuminating. He 
says, " The inclusion of section 201 in the Railroad bill in the form 
in which it was submitted to Congress unquestionably resulted from 
a deliberate misstatement of facts by the person or persons with 
whom the Conference Committee consulted. It is inconceivable that 
the information given the Congressional Committee was founded 
on ignorance and if so such ignorance of the activities .of the Gov- 
ernment by Government officials is appalling. It is my personal 
belief whoever imparted the information to the Conference Com- 
mittee as to the inland watenvay activities of the Govermnent wil- 
fully concealed the truth as far as the New York State Canal situa- 
tion was concerned." 

Because of the importance to the whole country of the chief 
features of the bill, it could not be delayed to revise one relatively 
small item, however much that was desired by those directly inter- 
ested. Accordingly the bill was passed, but shortly thereafter 
Senator Wadsworth introduced a resolution to exempt the Barge 
canal from its provisions. 

On March 17, 1920, the State Canal Board adopted a strong 
resolution disapproving the continuation of Government operation 
of barges on the New York canals and declaring that in justice 
and fairness to the State all canal equipment used or acquired by 
the United States for Barge canal operation should be transferred 
in ownership to the State as a partial return to the State for 
furnishing, solely at its own expense, a waterway connecting the 
Great Lakes with the seaboard and placing it at the disposal of 
the fNfation, and particularly in part compensation for what had 
resulted from the Government's canal operations in 1918 and 1919. 

Immediately following this action the State Legislature passed 
a concurrent resolution of the same tenor as that of the Canal 
Board, but going farther and actually requesting the transfer of 
the fleets to State ownership. Copies of this resolution were sent 
to the United States authorities. 

A hearing on Senator Wadsworth's resolution was called by the 
Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce, at which New York 
canal representatives appeared and argued that Government opera- 

United States Control 355 

tion was inimical to the successful development of commerce on 
the State waterways and prejudicial to the best interests of the 
people of the state. The resolution was favorably considered by 
this committee and was passed by the Senate.. 

At the hearing before the House Committee on Interstate and 
Foreign Commerce the State commercial interests were again repre- 
sented in force and once more they protested against a continuance 
of Government operation on the New York canals. The Secretary 
of War, on the other hand, vigorously opposed the resolution, and 
representatives of his department painted a wonderful picture of 
what splendid results would attend the continued operation of 
Government barges on the State canals under the direction of the 
War Department. And as a cap-sheaf for New York's humiliation, 
in the light of her former magnanimity, representatives of the South 
appeared before the committee and insisted that if the Government 
were to cease its activities on the New York canals then the boats 
it had constructed or was constructing for that service should be 
transferred to the Mississippi and Warrior rivers. 

We shall let Superintendent Walsh tell how this action ended 
and also what happened on the canals during the ensuing season. 
In his report for 1920 he said: " Congress adjourned before action 
was taken by tlie House of Representatives on Senate Joint Resolu- 
tion 161 and the Federal government, under direction of the 
Secretary of War, through the Inland and Coastwise Waterways 
Service, administered by the chief of the Army Transport Service, 
has operated a fleet of 95 barges on the waterways of the State 
during the navigation season of 1920. The equipment operated by 
the Federal Government is supposed to be the last word in inland 
waterway barge design. The power units employed cost nearly 
$100,000 each. Twenty steel steamers, twin screwed, having 400 
I.H.P. each and cargo capacity of 350 tons were in service. 
Fifty-one steel barges, 150 feet long, 20 feet wide, 12 feet deep, 
with a cargo capacity of 630 tons each ; twenty-one concrete barges, 
150 feet long, 21 feet wide, 12 feet deep, with a cargo capacity 
of 520 tons each, and three wooden barges of the same general 
dimensions were operated. The total cost of the fleet was approxi- 
mately $4,500,000." 

We desire to add another quotation from Superintendent Walsh. 
He gives in this same report a brief resume of Federal control on 
the New York canals in 1918, 1919 and 1920, the three years 
during which that control was in force. It is as scathing and as 

356 Hisioty of the Barge Canal 

fearless an arraignment of Government operation as the most rabid 
and the most sorely disappointed canal enthusiast could desire. It 
reads as follows: 

" The Report of the Director of Inland Waterways of the United 
States Railroad Administration for the year 1918 excuses the 
failure of government operations on the ground that the equip- 
ment to be had was obsolete and inadequate and -the time permitted 
for the mobilization of a fleet and perfection of an operating organi- 
zation was too short to permit of efficient results. 

" The report of the Government for the fiscal year 1919 shows 
a loss .of $506,807.38. The failure of operation is admitted but 
excused on the ground that the modern power units contracted for 
had not been delivered and such tow boats as were available for the 
movement of the new steel and concrete barges that had been 
delivered were inadequate. 

" The report of the Chief of Inland and Coastwise Waterway 
Service for the fiscal year 1920, comprising only 45 days of the 
navigation season of 1920, shows a loss of $62,670.14. The deficit 
for the entire season of navigation will unquestionably exceed $500,- 
000. Throughout 1920 the government had in service its full 
complement of floating equipment, the most modern and most 
costly of any on the State waterways. The season's cargo capacity 
of the fleet if operated with reasonable efficiency would have been 
approximately 600,000 tons. The alleged causes for the failure 
of operations of 1918 and 1919 did not exist in 1920 yet the results 
were relatively far more disastrous. The government barges 
carried 197,017 tons during the season of 1920. In my 1919 report 
I showed that while canal commerce increased 7 per cent in 191 8 
that proportion carried by the government line decreased 2 per 
cent. During 1920 the government barges carried slightly less than 
14 per cent of the season's total tonnage, their proportion decreasing 
another 2 per cent despite the fact the very best equipment to be 
had was operated by the goverimient and traffic was available in 
large volume, increasing about 15 per cent in total. A comparison 
of the barge activity of the government fleet with barges operated 
by others shows that the type of equipment characterized by the 
government in 1918 as 'obsolete and inadequate' worked with 
much greater efficiency. The War Department fleet engaged 
almost exclusively in the through Buffalo-New York traffic, the 
long haul trade, yet the average miles per day made by govern- 
ment barges was but 24.4 miles as against the 25.7 miles per day 

United Stales Control 357 

made by independent boats. The average time per trip by govern- 
ment boats was 14. i days, as against 7.9 made by the independent 
boats. One independent carrier having in service power units and 
cargo barges of the old canal type with a season capacity of about 
120,000 tons carried during the year over 90,000 tons or 75 per 
cent of its capacity. Government barges carried less than 30 per 
cent of their capacity. Shippers have reported to the Department 
that government barges were as long as 75 days in transit from 
New York to Buffalo. Government barges with cargo valued at 
hundreds of thousands of dollars on which the shipper was paying 
interest charges laid at the Barge canal terminal in the city of 
Albany for several weeks. A time was reached when shippers of 
flaxseed from New York dissatisfied with the abominable service 
,of the War Department line diverted their tonnage to the inde- 
pendent operators. Immediately the government decreased its rate 
on this commodity. The former rate was fair and reasonable. It 
is questionable whether the decreased rate was remunerative. The 
loss in earnings to one carrier resulting from the destructive com- 
petitive methods of the government would have been sufficient to 
pay a substantial dividend on the entire capital stock of the com- 

" Not the least of the evils of government operations were in 
their effect on the commercial interests of the canal. The utter 
incompetency and rank carelessness of government employees man- 
ning the barges placed the canal structures in constant jeopardy. 
The movement of a government fleet was a serious menace to locks, 
dams and bridges. Navigating the waterway with complete dis- 
regard of rules and regulations the government boats wrought havoc 
with the channel buoy lights ; badly damaged locks time and again ; 
were in collision frequently with other craft ; were sunk here and 
there in the canal channel, and in one instance almost completely 
demolished a bridge. Reports continually reached the Department 
that officers and crews on government boats were intoxicated while 
on duty and incapable of safely performing their duties. A 
rehearsal of the accidents and damage caused by the incompetent 
and careless handling of government barges would entail more 
space than may be permitted in this report. Suffice it to say that 
had the conditions cited resulted from the operation of barges by 
a private company the privileges of the waterway would have been 
denied that company. As it was, the impression prevailed that since 
the War Department's Canal service was conducted through Act 

358 HislorX) of the Barge Canal 

of Congress, the operation of the boats was outside the jurisdiction 
of the Superintendent of Public Works. 

" Government operation on the New York canals in 1918 and 
1 919, under the Railroad Administration, was most deficient. 
Government operation under the War Department in 1920 was 
so replete with mismanagement, inefficiency and incompetency as 
to defy imagination. The fiasco of government operations in 1918, 
1 91 9 and 1920 demand that there be brought about an immediate 
termination of Federal operations on the New York State water- 
ways. The people of New York have been compelled to assume 
a large share, nearly 30 per cent, of the million or more dollars 
lost by the Railroad Administration and the War Department in 
their ridiculous attempt to conduct a business enterprise. The 
commercial interests of the State demand that the government with- 
draw from business on the New York canals and cease competing 
with citizens of the State in a field where the government has no 
moral right to continue. To that end, I urge ujKin my successor 
and your Honorable Body the imperative necessity of early and, 
forceful action that there may be introduced and passed in Congress 
legislation amendatory to the Railroad bill that will compel the 
immediate discontinuance of government operations on the Barge 

Federal control of the Barge canal was stopped in time to free 
the 1 92 1 navigation season from boats operated by the Govern- 
ment. But Superintendent Cadle said in his report for the year 
that only through the most vigorous efforts of the Governor, the 
Legislature and State officials was this brought about. The Gov- 
ernment boats were purchased and operated on the canal by a 
private transportation compyany. 



Bureau Recommended by Commission on Operation — Recommended by State 
Engineer — ^ Character of Efficient Bureau — -Bureaii Authorised — Bureau 
Established — Activities of Bureau — Extension Recommended — Need of 
Further Activity. 

IN OUR review of what was accomplished by the Commission on 
Barge Canal Operation we said that in recommending the 
creation of a traffic organization for the new waterway the 
commission was trying to cure one of the most pernicious ills of the 
whole canal system. Just why the State was so long in diagnosing 
this malady is hard to understand. No railroad, as the commission 
pointed out, could hope to succeed under the methods, or rather the 
almost utter lack of method, employed by the State. At last, how- 
ever, the State did come to realize its condition and attempted to 
provide a remedy, but whether an adequate remedy without further 
action is still to be seen. 

In creating the office of canal traffic agent the State made pro- 
vision for undertaking a most difficult task. But how difficult and 
also how important that task really was we doubt whether the public 
at large or indeed many individuals have any sufficient appreciation. 
Perhaps we can get a partial conception of both its need and its 
immensity by listening to something the general manager of the 
Manchester ship canal said concerning that oft-cited waterway. We 
quote this remark in full elsewhere, but a brief paraphrase will suf- 
fice here. He said that, strenuous and exhausting as was the struggle 
to carry the authorizing bill through Parliament and great as was 
the engineering feat, these were as nothing to the tremendous task 
of diverting traffic from beaten tracks to the new route and only 
through organization and the employment of trained experts was 
this done. 

There was no immediate response to the Operation Commission's 
recommendation. That which brought about the necessary legislation 
was doubtless a recommendation from the State Engineer, which 
was endorsed by the State Waterways Association and followed by 
a proposal by the Superintendent of Public Works to appoint a tem- 
porary traffic agent and a recommendation that such office be made 


360 Hislors of the Barge Canal 

permanent. These suggestions, reinforced by active support of 
proposed legislation, secured the desired end. 

Let us look for a moment at the State Engineer's recommendation. 
It was contained in his annual report for 1915, presented to the 
1916 Legislature. Mr. Williams said, " Should a railroad be con- 
structed at an expense of $150,000,000 and its ofificials assume the 
policy of waiting for business to come to them, the stockholders 
might well complain. On the completion of the Barge canal and its 
terminals the people of New York State will have invested this 
amount in improving the canal system and to realize to the full 
extent on this investment, I earnestly recommend the establishment 
of a bureau corresponding to that of the general freight agent of 
one of our large railroads, which would furnish shippers information 
relative to water-borne transportation, and, to go still farther, would 
endeavor to encourage shipments whereby the canals might be used 
to their full capacity, thus insuring the people of this State a hand- 
some return on the investment made." 

A few months later in amplification of this suggestion the Barge 
Canal Bulletin, a monthly publication issued under the direction of 
the State Engineer, had the following to say in regard to what should 
be the character of the bureau recommended, which it denominated 
a State Traffic Bureau: 

"As to the nature of the bureau, it may be compared to the general 
freight agent and the freight-soliciting bureau of a railroad. It 
would be nearly what these railroad departments are, but it would 
be something more. One of its chief functions may be described as 
educational and another as developmental, or assistful. It could 
not confine its duties to the narrow limits of a freight solicitor nor 
conduct its solicitations along the lines of a partisan railroad official. 
As a State organization it would have to be entirely free from 
partiality toward any one of the boat lines doing business on the 

" The primary duty of a State traffic bureau, like that of any 
traffic bureau, would be the giving of information concerning rates, 
routes, connections, distances, times of sailing, comparisons between 
water and rail costs and other allied topics. However, if a State 
traffic bureau is to fulfill its whole mission this will not be its chief 

" That the State and its citizens may derive to the full the benefit 
inherent in the improved waterways, the people who send and receive 
freight must have brought to their attention the advantages of water- 

State Canal Traffic Bureau 361 

borne traffic. While this work is educational, it cannot be done at 
arm's length by the circular method. Someone who knows facts 
and conditions must come into . personal touch with these people. 
That such a one will get a ready hearing from the transportation 
superintendents of large concerns and the managers of smaller 
firms, no one who knows the situation can doubt. The inadequacy 
of existing transportation systems and the congestion and delays, 
especially during the past six months, clearly point to the need and 
opportune advent of the new State waterways. 

" Probably the chief beneficial service of the proposed traffic 
bureau, although its assistance may be soonest forgotten, will be 
its work of development. By knowing thoroughly the products and 
markets, not only of New York state, but of a wide adjacent region, 
the producer and manufacturer may be helped to extend and increase 
his trade and get his raw materials cheaper, and the consumer may 
learn how he can secure better goods for the same price he has been 
paying or the same goods at less cost. 

" In a word, a State traffic bureau, to attain its high office, should 
be what any government bureau would naturally be supposed to 
be — an organization for benefiting the citizens of the state by 
assisting them within the particular field of its activity." 

Again in his 1916 report, which was transmitted to the Legislature 
early in 1917, the State Engineer repeated his recommendation. It 
was about the same time that the Superintendent of Public Works 
suggested the new employee in his department, to be known as a 
canal traffic agent. Several chambers of commerce throughout the 
state endorsed these recommendations and the Legislature answered 
by passing an act (chapter 26) which added section 49 to the Canal 
Law and authorized the Superintendent to appoint a canal traffic 
agent " to collect and tabulate information and data relative to canal 
transportation, transportation of freight to and from localities which 
are feeders to the canal system, and rates and transportation costs to 
and from points beyond the limits of the canal system, by water and 
by railroad, when a portion of the route may be by canal." Tliese 
data were to be so arranged as to be available to the public and also 
the publication of pamphlets for disseminating canal information, 
was authorized by the new law. 

By July, 1917, the Superintendent had established a canal traffic 
bureau in his department and the work of compiling statistics and 
conducting an extended campaign of education had begun. In 
reporting to the Legislature on the founding of the bureau he said 

362 History of the Barge Canal 

that it must be borne in mind that in this campaign the prejudices 
to be removed were of long standing and that the present generation 
of business men had grown up with no knowledge of the possibilities 
of transporting freight by water, since waterways had ceased to be 
a factor for more than a decade and their use had come to have no 
place in the business plans of these men. 

During the first year's activities of this bureau efforts were con- 
fined largely to the development of intrastate traffic, since the number 
of boats in service was very limited and joint rates and joint routes 
between rail and water lines were still to be adjusted. It was in 
1917, as we shall see a little later, that the Public Service Commis- 
sion was given authority over railroad and canal relationships. Pend- 
ing the establishment of such cooperative rates and routes, it was 
thought futile to attempt to interest shippers in territory outside 
the state, inasmuch as the existing rates were prohibitive in com- 
parison with all-rail rates. But considerable educational work by 
means of canal literature was carried on in these outside fields. 

For extending the service of the bureau the Superintendent 
planned to have each harbormaster add to his terminal duties those 
of local freight agent and solicitor. Not only would they furnish 
information to the shippers in their respective localities concerning 
tariffs, routes and means of utilizing the canal, but they would be 
in intimate touch with the local situations and would report their 
findings to the Superintendent, being able to secure accurate data 
relative to the source of raw materials used by local manufacturers, 
the points to which the finished products were shipped, the character 
of service shippers required, the rates necessary to attract commerce, 
the btlilding of new factories in their several communities and the 
industrial conditions generally. 

Not much time has passed since the establishment of this bureau, 
but already considerable has been accomplished. The vast field 
still to be covered, however, is appreciated by those in charge of 
the work. As the Superintendent said in a recent annual report, 
" The task of reaching all of the many thousands who might advan- 
tageously ship their products by the canals is a large one and years 
of constant effort would be required before the merits of the ' Ship 
by Canal ' campaign could be brought home to the majority.'' 

It is along the lines of publicity and education that efforts are 
chiefly being directed. Conferences and meetings have been held 
with shippers and commercial organizations, not only those of the 
important cities and villages in New York state but of the Middle 

State Canal Traffic Bureau 363 

West and New England as well. Large numbers of shipping repre- 
sentatives, industrial traffic managers, sales managers and others 
have been afforded an opportunity personally to inspect the canal in 
operation and get a first-hand knowledge of the conditions of navi- 
gation and the excellence of the terminal facilities. In this way 
prejudices against canal transportation, conceived largely through 
ignorance of true conditions, have been removed. As a means of 
reaching a much wider audience, the many who cannot be taken on 
an actual trip over the canal, there has been prepared a motion 
picture film which shows some of the prominent structural features 
of the waterway, the carrying of cargoes upon it and the handling of 
freight at its terminals. 

To illustrate how even less important details are not neglected in 
the attempt to bring canal facilities to the attention of the public, it 
may be said that advantage has been taken of the immense amount 
of travel on the railways and highways paralleling the canal and 
large illuminated sign-boards have been erected at vantage-points, 
bearing matter briefly descriptive of the adjacent structure or channel 
and also pertinent canal propaganda. A somewhat similar medium 
of advertising has been a sign-board on boats, telling how many 
carloads of a given commodity a boat was carrying or such other 
appropriate words as would tend to arouse interest in the canal. 
Another form of' sign-board has recently been placed rather gen- 
erously along the highways even to a considerable distance from 
the canal, pointing the direction to the nearest terminal. 

Were it not for the sadly inadequate supply of canal boats, the 
traffic bureau might have widely broadened its campaign of solicita- 
tion, doubtless with considerable success. The bureau has accepted 
as one of its duties the remedying of this defect. Whenever oppor- 
tunity has offered, prospective transportation companies have been 
given all available assistance, in an endeavor to encourage the placing 
of more boats in canal service. As an instance of this policy there 
may be cited a pamphlet entitled, " Principal Requisites of Canal 
Carriers and the Potential Canal Tonnage," issued by the Superin- 
tendent in February, 1918. 

One may get a comprehensive view of the work done by this 
bureau from a paragraph in the Superintendent's report for 1920. 
He summarized as follows: 

" The activities of the Traffic Bureau are showing results. Con- 
stant solicitation has been carried on ; shippers everywhere have been 
aided and encouraged to utilize the canal route; transportation 

364 History of the Barge Canal 

organizations have been fostered and assisted in acquiring cargo; 
rates have been initiated; routes developed; obsolete practices elim- 
inated; new methods inaugurated; unfounded prejudices overcome; 
literature descriptive of the canal facilities prepared and distributed 
throughout the country; articles showing the value of the waterway 
and how it may be utilized furnished the press and periodicals; the 
interests of the waterway generally safeguarded; inimical legislation 
opposed; boats acquired for shippers; cargo obtained for boats and 
every effort made to rehabilitate commerce on the canals. That such 
efforts have been fruitful is to be seen in the increasing commerce 
of the waterways and the very apparent reawakening of interest 
among shippers in canal transportation." 

The Superintendent went on to say that much more can be accom- 
plished with a larger traffic organization and he recommended that 
it be extended by renaming the head of the bureau, calling him 
Traffic Director rather than Canal Traffic Agent, and giving him 
three principal assistants, one to be located at Buffalo, one at 
Syracuse and the other at New York city. Such, it is said, was the 
plan originally conceived and advocated by the shipping interests 
of the state, and these interests are urging that the time has come 
for expanding the bureau to this extent, since, if canal commerce is 
to grow, this organization must keep ahead of it. 

We said that it remained to be seen whether the State had provided 
an adequate remedy for removing the prejudice against the canal 
and for educating the shipping public to an appreciation of the 
advantage of using the new waterway. The traffic bureau has 
accomplished much, probably all that could be expected, and we 
would not in the least degree disparage anything it has done, 
but when we learn, as we did recently, with what surprise the 
Congressmen from the Middle West found a well-equipped, 
modern canal instead of the shallow, inefficient channel they 
had expected, and when we see too how ignorant of the new 
traffic opportunities are the people of our own commonwealth, we 
wonder whether the State did not make an almost fatal error in 
waiting too long to begin its campaign of advertising and solicitation 
and also whether much more vigorous efforts will not be needed 
before converts to the ship-by-canal idea are added in sufficient 
numbers and the new waterway comes into its own. 



Regulation Recommended by State Commissions — Importance of Rail and 
Water Cooperation — Review of Question — Hostile Attitude of Rail- 
roads, Both Domestic and Foreign — Studies in America and Europe to 
Find Remedy — Panama Canal Act — Status of Law in New York 
State — Characteristics of Effective Law — Same Relations Needed 
between Canal and Railroad as between Separate Railroads — Action by 
New York Necessary — Attempted Legislation — Regulating Law Passed 
— Analysis of Law — Rail Connections at Canal Terminals — Delay in 
Invoking Law. 

IN OUR discussion of the terminal question and again in our 
consideration of the work of the Commission on Barge Canal 
Operation we have seen something of the need of amicable 
and cooperative relationships between railways and canals. The lack 
of such relationships had been recognized by canal men as one of 
the chief reasons why waterway shipping had been on the decline, 
but it remained for the Terminal Commission and the Commission 
on Operation to give authoritative public voice to the demand for a 
change. Indeed until the investigations of these commissions and 
of two nearly contemporaneous national commissions there had been 
no large general appreciation of how completely the railways had 
dominated the canal situation by their hostile actions. Finally New 
York State enacted a measure calculated to remedy the evil. This 
was in 1917 and it was brought about only after several years of 
hard work by canal advocates. 

It will be recalled that the Terminal Commission in its final report 
in 191 1 had recommended that " a commission composed of represen- 
tatives of the leading commercial organizations in different parts of 
the state should investigate conditions affecting interchange of 
freight, the subject of prorating and through-rating, the recognition 
of through bills of lading and of through-rates at points of inter- 
change, as between water and rail carriers." The answer to this 
recommendation, it will also be remembered, was the Commission 
on Barge Canal Operation, the question of rail and canal relation- 
ships being one of its main subjects of investigation. This latter 
commission reported to the Legislature of 1913 and made recom- 


366 History of the Barge Canal 

mendations for certain enactments which in general were embodied 
in the law of 191 7. The State, however, was not entering an unex- 
plored field in this legislation. The National government by its 
Interstate Commerce Act and its Panama Canal Act had led the way 
and New York's law was based on the Congressional acts and the 
Federal experience. 

In reviewing the work of the two State commissions we did not 
discuss the subject of rail and water relationships very fully, leaving 
it rather for the present occasion. But a little investigation will 
show how important a subject it is, how, like the terminal question, 
it lies at the very foundation of canal success, the lack of connections 
and cooperative relationships with railways being sure to render 
ineflfectual and almost useless any canal, however complete and 
splendidly equipped in all else that canal may be. We may see how 
the railroads, by operating their own boat lines and by refusing to 
interchange, to prorate and to through-rate freight and to recognize 
through biUs of lading, have been able to minimize or even entirely 
to eliminate waterway competition. At least such is the claim of, 
canal advocates and there seems to be abundant evidence to 
substantiate their assertions. 

Even before the Commission on Operation had' made its recom- 
mendations to the Legislature canal men were alive to their peril 
and had taken action which resulted in introducing two bills during 
the same session, aimed at the joint regulation of rail and canal 
rates. This action was taken by the State Waterways Association 
at its annual convention on September 20, 1912. Its immediate cause 
was a paper before the convention on " The Needs of Legislation 
as to the Relations between Rail and Water Carriers," by William 
J. Roche of Troy. 

If we are to understand the situation that confronted the State 
and know why it eventually took the action it did, we must of neces- 
sity review the history of railroad competition with waterways and 
also learn what had been said on the whole subject by men who 
spoke with the authority of intimate acquaintance with the facts. 
Such a comprehensive grasp of the case Mr. Roche's paper gives us. 
It is made up largely of quotations from these men who spoke with 
authority and in addition it tells what the United States had done and 
what the status was in New York state. We can do no better than 
to avail ourselves of the compilation thus made and quote from the 
paper at some length. 

Canal and Railroad Relationships 367 

" The Panama Canal Act and the discussions attendant upon its 
passage through Congress," said Mr. Roche, " have again sharply 
drawn attention to the relations between carriers by rail and carriers 
by water, and to the necessity of adopting and enforcing definite 
public policies concerning the two classes of carriers. . . . 

" The questions have been asked : Should railroad corporations 
be allowed to operate boat lines? Are the State and the nation 
engaged in developing waterways only to have these waterways 
become mere adjuncts to the railroad systems? In view of the 
large appropriations which are being made, are we rearing and 
fattening waterway lambs for railroad consumption? What statu- 
tory measures are required to ensure fair treatment of the water 
carrier by rail carrier and the efficiency of the public waters as 
agencies of commerce? 

" The history of transportation both in Europe and in this 
country tells us of the dangers of permitting the unrestricted use 
of waterways by railroad corporations. The past points a warning 
finger to the future. Railroads acquired water lines, not to put 
them to use for transportation purposes, but to put them out of use, 
and thus eliminate competition and establish monopoly. They laid 
hands on the choicest sites in harbors and along lakes and rivers 
for freight stations. They refused to issue through bills of lading 
when part of the route was over a water line. They cut rates on 
the boat lines which they controlled until their competitors sold out 
or were starved out. They declined to make joint rates and to pro- 
rate with water carriers. Physical connections between the railroad 
stations and docks where vessels received and discharged their car- 
goes were denied. Discriminations of various kinds, including 
rebating, were practiced. The result was a tremendous decline and, 
in some cases, the extinction of water-borne commerce. The Board 
of United States Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, expressing 
their views as to the cause of the decline of water transportation, 

" ' The prevalent cause leading to the decline of water transpor- 
tation is without doubt the railroad. The railroad corporation of 
large resources and facilities for its business successfully competes 
with navigation companies or individual boats with Umited resources 
and facilities; and, competing, naturally does not enter into such 
relations with its competitor as to increase the business of the latter, 
declining to prorate, or to recognize through bills of lading. More- 
over, railroads have established rival boat or barge lines through 
which competition has been discouraged.' 

368 History of the Barge Canal 

" The New York Barge Canal Terminal Commission state in their 
report of 191 1 : 

The attitude toward the water carriers that has long obtained 
by the railroads has been one of pronounced hostility. Through 
transportation, that is to say, the carriage of freight originating 
outside of the State, has almost reached the vanishing point.' 

" Mr. Allen stated at the 1909 Convention of the Rivers and 
Harbors Congress in referring to the Mississippi River : 

" 'Again the railroads have paralleled the river, have reduced the 
rates of carriage until it is impossible for boats to make a reasonable 
interest on their investment, and when they have gone out of busi- 
ness their rates have been restored or increased and railroads thus 
have monopolized traffic' 

" At the same Convention, United States Senator Burton of Ohio 
said, referring to the advantages enjoyed by railroads: 

" ' Then there is a second class of advantages that are arbitrary, 
due to their lowering of rates to drive waterways out of business. 
The best illustration with reference to that which I know, is a case 
where a barge line on the Mississippi was carrying freight at 25c. 
a hundred very profitably. The railways put down the rate to loc. 
a hundred until the barge line was driven out of business ; then the 
railroads put up the rate to 50c. a hundred, where it has remained 
ever since. Now, that ought not to be allowed; legislation ought to 
prevent anything of that kind. . . . Gentlemen, it is hardly 
reasonable to spend $3,000,00 on a waterway that will not be useful, 
except to make a million-dollar railroad behave itself. There ought 
to be, in the armory of the law, something more potent, more ready 
that that. . . . What does the fact that railroads buy out com- 
peting water lines prove? It proves that they can afford to buy in 
order to get rid of a competitor. Why? Because that method of 
transportation is cheaper than their method of transportation.' 

"At the Convention of the National Rivers and Harbors Congress 
in 191 1, Mr. Wilkinson stated: 

" ' On the introduction of the railways, Germany passed through 
an experience corresponding to ours. For a long period the water- 
ways lost their importance as a factor in the development of the 
commerce of the country. The Germans thought, as we have 
thought, that when the railways came in they could afford to neglect 
their waterways. In the meantime the railways secured control of 
the canals, harbors, and waterfronts, and either closed up water- 
borne traffic or raised the tariff rates for water carriage to force 

Canal and Railroad Relationships 369 

transportation by rail until the cost of raw materials became so pro- 
hibitive that factories were forced to close down, throwing people 
out of employment, and great distress prevailed.' 

" It is well known that in England, which in the earlier days was 
intersected by many canals, inland water transportation is in a back- 
ward condition, because the railroads acquired control of the water- 
ways, and that acts of Parliament intended to change the situation, 
have had but little effect because they came too late. 

" Commissioner Herbert Knox Smith says, regarding the attitude 
of the railroads towards water carriers : 

" ' Probably the greatest single deterrent to water-terminal advance 
is the present adverse attitude of rail lines toward independent water 
traffic, in their exclusive control of frontage, in refusal or neglect 
to co-ordinate with general water traffic, and in refusal to prorate 
generally with water lines in through movement of traffic. Until 
this underlying relation of rail to water systems is adjusted on some 
common sense basis of harmony, there is little hope of great advance 
in water terminal conditions.' 

" United States Senator Bristow declared with reference to the 
Pacific Mail lines that they have been ' commercial pirates ' run 
wholly in the interest of the transcontinental railroads for the pur- 
pose of using the Panama Canal in private commerce and to destroy 
any steamship lines that wished to establish legitimate competition 
with these railroads by the Isthmian route ; that an absolute pro- 
hibition of the use of the canal to steamship lines, the stock of which 
or any part of which is owned or controlled directly or indirectly, 
by railroads doing a transcontinental business is necessary, and that 
if such a provision should not be incorporated in the bill, the canal 
would be of little benefit to the American people and American 

" The Directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce 
pithily said: 

" 'A railroad cannot honestly compete with itself, whether by 
means of box cars or ships.' 

" The testimony on the subject is abundant and comes from 
authentic sources both foreign and domestic. In this country, com- 
plaints of the practices of railroad corporations in their efforts to 
eliminate waterway competition, have been numerous and their extent 
continental. There can be no better guide to the future than the 
lessons taught by the past, particularly when the teaching is general 
and prolonged. Coincident, therefore, with the commencement of 

370 History of the Barge Canal 

a new era of waterway development and with the expenditure of 
vast sums of public money for that purpose, men's minds have 
naturally turned to the discussion and formulation of policies that 
would result in securing an adequate return for the moneys thus 
expended, that would prevent a monopoly of transportation, that 
would insure the advantages of waterway competition in the move- 
ment. of the products of the field, the forest, the mine and the factory 
and that would aid in the upbuilding of the industries of the nation. 

"A review of the methods intended to accomplish these ends is 

" In his message to Congress in December, 1910, President Taft 
said, concerning the Panama Canal: 

" ' I cannot close the reference to the canal without suggesting as 
a wise amendment to the Interstate Commerce Law, a provision 
prohibiting interstate commerce railroads from owning or control- 
ling ships engaged in the trade through the Panama Canal. I believe 
such a provision may be needed to save to the people of the United 
States the conflicts of the competition in trade between the eastern 
and western seaboards which this canal was constructed to secure.' 

" Commissioner Prouty of the Interstate Commerce Commission 
declares : 

" ' If the waterways of this country are to be of substantial bene- 
fit in the way of reducing rates of transportation, it is absolutely 
essential that rail carriers be prohibited from owning or controlling, 
directly or indirectly, competing water carriers.' 

" Dr. Crowel, Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, writes : 

" ' Investors are not going to put capital into a waterway enter- 
prise from which railway competition can drive the investor in the 
course of a few years. Hence, protection by law must be given 
against unfair competition.' 

" The New York Barge Canal Terminal Commission state : 

" ' Upon the Continent of Europe it should be said the railroads 
are either owned by the Governments outright, or they are in part 
so owned. The supervision of the railroads and the regulations 
imposed upon them by the general Government are designed to and 
have the effect of permitting the freest possible development of the 
waterways and this largely accounts for the splendid progress made 
in waterway and harbor improvements and in the growing commerce 
so notable everywhere.' 

"The National Waterways Commission made an exhaustive 
investigation of questions relating to water transportation both in 

Canal and Railroad Relationships 371 

this country and in Europe, and in their report recently presented 
to Congress, they say: 

The lack of adequate rgulations makes it possible for the rail- 
ways to effectually control or to crush out water competition through 
their ownership and control of boat lines. It is a well-known fact 
that the trunk-line railways, through their control over terminals 
at Buffalo and their ownership of steamship companies on the Great 
Lakes, have been able to dominate the lake and rail package freight 
business between New York and Chicago and also to a considerable 
extent the grain traffic. On the business thus controlled the water 
rates have risen, while on the coal, iron and grain traffic not con- 
trolled by the railways the water rates have steadily declined. In 
like manner the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad 
practically dominates water transportation on Long Island Sound 
by reason of its ownership of the New England Navigation Com- 
pany. Independent companies have been unable to compete success- 
fully, owing to the advantage which their railway-owned competitor 
enjoys. The steamship companies plying between the North Atlantic 
and Southern ports in the coastwise trade are likewise working in 
harmony with the ' connecting and competing railways by which they 
are owned or controlled, so that little, if any, active competition 
exists. Also on some rivers the railways have acquired control of 
packet lines. 

" ' While this rapidly increasing control of railways over water 
lines tends to bring about that harmony and co-operation between 
them which is necessary for the development of transfer traffic, it 
also has possibilities of harmful results which require regulation. 
Where the railways grant prorating arrangements to boat lines 
which they own or control, while denying the same privilege to com- 
peting independent lines, the latter are practically precluded from 
securing any transfer traffic, while on the local or port-to-port busi- 
ness they must meet the competition of the railway-owned boat lines, 
which are at liberty on this business to cut rates to any extent they 
choose. Under such conditions it is very difficult for independent 
lines to succeed, and the cases are numerous where they have been 
forced to retire from the field. . . . 

" ' Sedulous care is taken by most European countries for the 
protection of inland water-borne traffic against railroad competition. 
In France this is accomplished by enforcing a differential of 20 per 
cent, in favor of the waterways as against railways, with the evident 
intention of maintaining both methods of transportation. In a 

372 History of the Barge Canal 

majority of the other countries in which water transportation has 
reached its highest development, the railroads wholly or partially 
belong to the State. This is true in Germany, Austria, Hungary, 
Holland and Belgium. The well-established policy in these countries 
is to secure co-operation between railways and waterways by official 
control of railway rates with a view to maintaining profitable traffic 
on the latter.' 

" In an appendix to the report, I find : 

" ' It may prove cheaper for a railway to control water carriers 
than to compete against them, especially when the natural advantages 
of the former are great. Thus it was the policy of railroads at one 
time to purchase outright or secure a controlling interest in com- 
peting canal companies. The common method in the United States 
now is for the railways to own or control boat lines. Where they 
also own the terminal facilities at a port it is a very easy matter to 
prevent serious competition from independents. The view was once 
held that the waterways were free highways on which competition 
would always exist, but what has transpired in the United States 
during the last decade indicates that even water transportation may 
be monopolized or so effectively controlled that it is hazardous for 
independent boat lines to enter the field.' 

" ' The experience of all countries has been that as long as the 
railways were not subject to strict control, they have succeeded in 
crushing out or controlling water competition. The regulation of 
railway activities for the protection of water carriers has, accord- 
ingly, been found necessary in all countries before the normal 
development of water transportation could take place.' 

" Guided by such experiences and recommendations, and to make 
certain that one of the great waterways of the world, connecting 
the two principal ocean highways, would be an efficient medium of 
commerce, free from the control of the other great force in the 
transportation world. Congress inserted the following provision in 
the Panama Canal Act, which was approved August 24, 1912, to 

" ' From and after the first day of July, nineteen hundred and 
fourteen, it shall be unlawful for any railroad company or other 
common carrier subject to the act to regulate commerce to own, lease, 
operate, control, or have any interest whatsoever (by stock owner- 
ship or otherwise, either directly, indirectly, through any holding 
company, or by stockholders or directors in common, or in any 
other manner) in any common carrier by water operated through the 

Canal and Railroad Relationships 373 

Panama Canal or elsewhere with which said railroad or other carrier 
aforesaid does or may compete for traffic or any vessel carrying 
freight or passengers upon said water route or elsewhere with which 
said railroad or other carrier aforesaid does or may compete for 
traffic; and in case of the violation of this provision each day in 
which such violation continues shall be deemed a separate offense.' 

" The act also confers upon the Interstate Commerce Commission 
jurisdiction to determine questions of fact as to the competition or 
possibility of competition, after full hearing, on the application of 
any railroad company or other carrier and that application may be 
filed for the purpose of determining whether any existing service 
is in violation of the section and for an order permitting the con- 
tinuance of any vessels or barges already in operation. . . . 

" Of course this statute relates only to interstate commerce. It 
does not affect the commerce which originates and terminates within 
the State itself, and which in a State like New York is vast in extent. 
Many persons are not aware of the fact that the bulk of the tonnage 
carried upon the Erie and Champlain Canals is intrastate. There is 
also the commerce of very large proportions on the Hudson River 
between the numerous cities along its banks, between New York and 
Troy. The same is true in many other States. This makes it of 
the highest importance that State Legislatures shall promptly pro- 
ceed to declare policies and enact legislation which shall be in sub- 
stantial harmony with this act of Congress ; otherwise an embarrass- 
ing divergency of policies and practices will ensue. 

" The Transportation Corporations Law of this State provides for 
the formation of navigation corporations which may operate vessels 
upon the seas, sounds, lakes, rivers, canals or other waters. That 
law contains this provision : 

" ' No railroad corporation shall have, own or hold any stock in 
any such corporation ' — meaning in any navigation corporation. 

" Daniel O'Connell, the Irish lawyer and orator, boasted that he 
could drive a coach and four through an act of Parliament. Simi- 
larly, it will be readily seen that this statute can be made utterly 
ineffective. The railroad corporation need not hold the stock of the 
navigation company, in its own name, if it desired to control the 
latter. Many devices could be resorted to, in order to obtain such 
control. There is the familiar medium of the holding company. 
. . . For the purpose therefore, of making the statue effective 
and of keeping the waterways free from railroad control, I prepared 
an amendment to the existing law, and had the same introduced in 

374 History of the Barge Canal 

the sessions of the Legislature in 191 1 and 1912; but there was no 
hearing on the bill. . . . 

" Congress has proceeded step by step to regulate railroad traffic 
and extend the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 
1906 authority was given to the Commission to establish through 
routes and joint rates as the maximum to be charged, and to pre- 
scribe the division of such rates and the terms and conditions under 
which through routes should be operated, and it was declared that 
' this provision shall apply when one of the connecting carriers is 
a water-line.' In 1910, Congress undertook to check an abuse by 
providing that whenever a rail carrier shall, in competition with a 
water route, reduce the rates on the carriage of freight to or from 
competitive points, it shall not be permitted to increase such rates, 
unless after hearing by the Interstate Commerce Commission it 
should be found that the proposed increase arose upon changed 
conditions other than the ehmination of water competition. 

" It was seen, however, that the foregoing and like provisions 
would not, of themselves, sufficiently stimulate and protect water- 
borne traffic. Other things had to be enacted to bring about that 
co-ordination of water and rail lines which is essential to the develop- 
ment of cheap, rapid and adequate transportation. Congress under- 
took to provide for some of these in the Panama Canal Act as follows : 

" When property may be or is transported from point to point 
in the United States by rail and water, through the Panama Canal 
or otherwise, (but not entirely within the limits of a single State) 
the Interstate Commerce Commission is given jurisdiction of such 
transportation and of the carriers, both by rail and water, (a) to 
establish physical connection between the lines of the rail carrier 
and the dock of the water carrier by directing the rail carrier to 
make suitable connection between the two or by directing both to 
co-operate in this respect, wherever such connection is reasonably 
practicable and the amount of business to be handled is sufficient 
to justify the outlay; (b) to establish through routes and maximum 
joint rates between and over such rail and water lines and to deter- 
mine the terms and conditions under which such lines shall be oper- 
ated in the handling of the traffic; (c) to establish maximum pro- 
portional rates by rail to and from the ports to which the traffic is 
brought or from which it is taken by the water carrier and to deter- 
mine to what traffic and in connection with what vessels and upon 
what terms and conditions such rates shall apply. 

Canal and Railroad Relationships 375 

" These are further distinct steps intended to encourage and pro- 
tect transportation by water routes. Heretofore the relations, or 
rather the absence of relations and co-operation between the rail 
and water carriers have greatly tended to restrict the selection by 
the shipper of the route upon which he desired to send his goods 
and to force him to bill them by an all-rail route. They operated 
to retard the rapid movement of merchandise and generally to incon- 
venience merchants and manufacturers. The policy that prevailed 
was the reverse of that which was in force as to railroad lines. 

" Under State law, railroad corporations are required to make 
physical connections with the railroads of other corporations and to 
afford to competing roads equal terms of accommodation and 
privileges in the transportation of cars, passengers, baggage and 
freight, and equal facilities in the interchange and use of cars; and 
the Public Service Commission has power to establish through routes 
and joint rates for the transportation of property upon railroads 
and to declare the portion of such rates to which each common 
carrier shall be entitled and the manner in which the same shall be 
paid and secured. All this is demanded in the public interest. The 
law should require as much as this from the railroads, which derive 
their charter from the sovereign power, in favor of the waterways 
built and maintained by the public moneys, and of the shippers who 
desire to make use of these waterways. 

" Provisions of the kind noted, as well as one requiring the issu- 
ing of through bills of lading of merchandise shipped over both rail 
and water lines, should be placed in the Public Service Commission 
Law of this State. At the present time the Public Service Com- 
missions have no jurisdiction or supervision over common carriers 
by water. This was decided by the Commission of the Second Dis- 
trict in the case of Murray's Line against the Delaware & Hudson 
Company. It was also decided in that case, that the fact that a rail- 
road company charged a shipper partly by water and partly by rail, 
more for transporting property between two points on the railroad 
than it charged for the same service when the property transported 
was received from a connecting railroad and carried under a joint 
tariiT arranged by the two railroad companies, did not establish a 
charge of undue preference or discrimination under the law of the 
State. Of course the inevitable effect of such a ruling and such a 
condition of law is to deprive waterways of their natural advantages 
and to discourage transportation by such routes. . . . 

376 H'tsloT'S of the Barge Canal 

" The argument is advanced that the railroads should be allowed 
the same use of the waterways as other corporations or as indi- 
viduals, and that if abuses should develop by reason of such use, 
correction could be made by State or national commissions having 
authority in the premises. It is an old saying that ' an ounce of 
prevention is better than a pound of cure.' A statute which pre- 
vents an objectionable condition from arising, is much better than a 
state of law under which the condition may arise and then under- 
takes to provide a remedy for correcting the abuses which have 
grown up. Haling railroad corporations before Public Service Com- 
missions is a lawsuit; it is a slow and expensive process. Many 
individuals would rather suffer wrongs than enter upon litigation. 
The true remedy, therefore, is not regulation but is exclusion. 
" • * 

" We know the things that have militated against transportation 
by waterways ; it is time to move in the direction of preventing their 
continuance. Congress has set the pace; the State of New York 
should take it up. No commonwealth is more deeply concerned than 
the Empire State. The State has a right to limit the powers and 
activities of the corporations which derive their very life from the 
laws of the State and to regulate their relations with other corpo- 
rations and with individuals carrying on business that is affected 
with a public interest. . . . 

" Every consideration demands that one agency alone shall not be 
allowed to have anything approaching a monopoly of the transporta- 
tion of persons and property. The merchant and manufacturer who 
choose to ship partly by rail and partly by water should be given 
the same advantages that are accorded to them when they ship their 
goods by connecting lines of railway. There is a splendid future 
before the State of New York in commercial and industrial activi- 
ties, if we solve our transportation problems upon right lines. Bitter 
will be the disappointment of the people in waterways as economic 
factors, unless legislation is enacted that will keep off the over- 
shadowing hand of the railroad and permit of the freest develop- 
ment of these highways." 

The action of the State Waterways Association at its convention 
in 1912 was to appoint a committee on legislation and direct it to 
prepare suitable bills and endeavor to have them enacted into law. 
This committee consisted of Mr. Roche, chairman, George Clinton 
and Henry W. Hill of Buffalo, Lewis Nixon and Frank S. Gardner 
of New York and John D. Kernan of Utica. 


Canal and Railroad Relationships 377 

The committee drafted tw.o bills and had them introduced in the 
Legislature. The purpose of one was to make effective the Trans- 
portation Corporations Law, which, although it prohibited railroad 
corporations from owning stock in any navigation company, was 
openly or covertly violated. This bill was taken almost word for 
word from the Panama Canal Act. The other bill brought naviga- 
tion companies and water lines under the jurisdiction of the Public 
Service Commission. Under the existing law they were not so 

No hearing was given on the Senate bills and it seemed impos- 
sible for the Waterways committee to secure one. A hearing was 
held by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, at which the bills were 
opposed by attorneys for two large railroad systems. Both measures 
seem to have died in the reference committees. That influences 
powerful enough to kill them were set in motion is the belief of 
their sponsors. This was not an opportune session, however, for 
any unusual legislation. It was at this time that Governor Sulzer 
and the Legislature were embroiled in what proved to be mortal 
political combat. 

During each legislative session thereafter similar bills were intro- 
duced and strenuous attempts were made by the Waterways com- 
mittee to have them passed. In 191 7 they achieved their end. 
Chapter 805 of the laws of that year was entitled " An act to 
amend the Public Service Commission Law in relation to common 
carriers by water." An analysis of this act shows that it contains 
ten main items. Divested of some of their legal verbiage the new 
provisions of the law are as follows: 

After adding carriers by water to the list of common carriers 
subject to the supervision of the Public Service Commission, the 
act makes it unlawful for any comm,on carrier to charge any 
greater compensation in the aggregate for transportation for a 
shorter than for a longer distance over the same route in the same 
direction, the shorter being included within the longer distance, 
or to charge any greater compensation as a through rate than the 
aggregate of the intermediate rates. 

Whenever a rail carrier in competition with a water route reduces 
rates to competitive points, the rail carrier is not permitted to 
increase these rates until it has proved to the Public Service Com- 
mission that the proposed increase rests on changed conditions other 
than the elimination of water competition. 

378 History of the Barge Canal 

In all instances where competing lines of railroads or carriers 
by water constitute portions of a through route, the shipper shall 
have the right to determine over which of the competing lines 
his freight shall be transported. The law gives the shipper the 
privilege of designating over which of two or more competing 
routes, either rail or water, his goods shall go and makes it the 
duty of the initial carrier to route the shipment and issue a through 
bill of lading as directed by the shipper and also to transport the 
goods over its own line and deliver them to the connecting carrier 
in accordance with these instructions. It makes it incumbent also 
on each carrier in turn to transport and deliver the shipment as 
directed in the bill of lading. 

The Public Service Commission has power to order carriers by 
rail and carriers by water to establish through routes and joint 
rates, and in case the companies fail to do this the Commission is 
to establish reasonable rates and fix the portion each carrier is to 

The Commission has power to establish physical connection 
between the lines of the rail carrier and the dock of the water 
carrier by directing the rail carrier to make connection with a 
track built from the dock, or by directing either or both carriers 
to make suitable connection, provided this connection is reasonably 
practicable and justified by the amount of business. The Com- 
mission has full authority also to determine the terms and condi- 
tions upon which these connecting tracks shall be operated and 
what sum shall be paid to or by either carrier, even in cases where 
the dock is owned by others than the carrier. The law specifically 
provides for rail connections at Barge canal terminals, giving the 
Commission authority to compel rail carriers to make connection 
between their tracks and these terminals, at the joint expense of 
the State and the rail carrier. The operation of such connections 
is to be in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Com- 

The Commission is empowered to establish through routes and 
order maximum joint rates between rail and water lines and to 
determine all the terms and conditions under which such a line 
shall be operated. 

The Commission has authority also to establish maximum pro- 
portional rates by rail to and from places to which traffic is brought 
or from which it is taken by the water carrier and to determine 
to what traffic and upon what terms such rates shall apply. 

Canal and Railroad Relationships 379 

If any rail carrier enters into arrangements with any water 
carrier for the handUng pf business, the Commission may require 
such carrier to enter into similar arrangements with any or all 
other common carriers by water. 

No common carrier by rail shall own or have any interest what- 
soever, either directly or indirectly, in any manner, in any common 
carrier by water with which it does or may compete for traffic, or, 
in boats carrying freight upon any water route with which the 
rail carrier competes. The Commission is given jurisdiction to 
determine questions of fact as to competition or the possibility of 
competition, after a full hearing. For determining these questions 
proceedings may be instituted, either upon application of a carrier 
or at the volition of the Commission. The status of existing 
service in regard to this provision may be inquired into and appli- 
cation for new service not in conflict with the provision may be 

The requirements of the General Public Service Commissions Law 
in regard to the filing, the publication and the changes of rates and 
charges by common carriers are extended to include rail and water 
carriers on a through route which is partly by rail and partly by 
water. This provision, however, does not apply to shipments 
which are wholly by water and are independent of any railroad 

Such in general are the provisions of the amendment. It applies 
of course only to intrastate traffic; the Interstate Commerce Com- 
mission has jurisdiction over traffic passing from one state into 
another. It will be noticed that a section prohibiting ownership 
or control of boats by railroad companies is contained in this law. 
This section accomplishes what was proposed in 1913 in the attempt 
to change the Transportation Corporations Law. 

In the working out of a portion of this law some difficulty has 
been encountered. At most places where the railroad companies 
have been asked to make connections with canal terminals and inter- 
change freight the request has met with compliance, but at Erie 
basin, Buffalo, the New York Central railroad company, with whose 
tracks the terminal is connected, refused to perform a switching 
service between the terminal and industries located on its tracks in 
Buffalo or with industries situated on the tracks of other railroad 
lines in Buffalo with which the New York Central connects. The 
Superintendent of Public Works, therefore, filed a complaint 
against the railroad with the Public Service Commission, alleging 

380 History of the Barge Canal 

a violation of the law and asking for an order from the Ojmmis- 
sion to compel the company to perform the service demanded. 
The Commission decided in favor of the State, but the railroad dis- 
puted the authority of the Commission and in effect refused to 
comply with its order. The matter was taken to court and the 
decision rendered was that the Public Service Commission was 
without power to act. The case has been appealed. 

Interchange facilities between railroads and the Barge canal now 
exist at Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, Troy, 
Albany and Oswego; also on the Hudson river at Hudson and 

It is possible now by a combination of Barge canal and lake lines 
to get through rates, through bills of lading and like privileges for 
inland ports, but any appreciable degree of cooperation between the 
canal and the railroads is still lacking. Although the machinery of 
the law has been provided for securing this cooperation, it has not 
yet been set in motion. The reason is that canal operators think 
it much better, even if slower, to secure this end by amicable means 
than by force. Moreover the operators are not in a position to 
make any demands for interchange with railroads. Their shipping 
is so meager that all available boats are required to carry between 
the Great Lakes and the Atlantic seaboard the bulk cargoes that 
pass over the Lakes in steamers or barges. There is another 
strong reason for not invoking the law, partictdarly the Federal 
law. Questions concerning interstate traffic come before the Inter- 
state Commerce Commission and any appeal to this body is con- 
sidered most inadvisable. In the first place it would be the open- 
ing wedge toward giving the commission jurisdiction over Barge 
canal carriers and thus restoring such conditions as prevailed 
during the United States control of the canal. No well-wisher of 
the waterway desires a repetition of that experience. Also it is 
believed that the commission is unfriendly toward canals, the 
majority of its members being men with railway proclivities. What 
the operators plan to do is to demonstrate to both the shippers and 
the railways that service by the canal is just as reliable as is that 
by rail. They have established minimum canal rates; they give 
through bills of lading, grant insurance on all water-borne freight 
and extend other facilities which greatly improve the service they 
now offer. They expect that when the service is perfected and 
the fact becomes widely known public opinion will demand and 
secure a coordination of rail and water carriers. 


Opening of Canal a Gradual Process — Hindrances to Quicker and Fuller 
Use — Officials Deprecate Condition — ■ Superintendent' s Opinion as to 
Qualifications of Efficient Carriers — Steady Decline in Canal Traffic 
Arrested in 1917 — New Commodities Carried in This Year — Govern- 
ment Control Discourages Canal Traffic in 1918 — Business Corporations 
and War Craft Use Canal — Decline in Traffic Turned to Increase in 1919 

— Government Activities Lessened — Several Encouraging Features — 
Superintendent Sees Bright Prospect — Business Conditions Affect Traf- 
fic Adversely in 1920 — New Common Carriers — New Private Operators 

— Oil Company Prominent in Use of Canal — New Prospects — Ability 
to Carry Perishable Products Shown — Traffic Increased in 1921 — Com- 
bined Lake and Canal Boat Appears — Package Service Inaugurated in 
Small Way — Plans to Use Canal During Railroad Strike — Promising 
Association Formed to Promote Canal Use — New Type of Boat — 
Example of the Manchester Ship Canal. 

WHEN the State decided to build the Barge canal the author- 
izing law required, by implication at least, that the canals 
should be kept open for navigation during the major 
portion of the usual season all through the years of construction. 
The opening of the new waterway to navigation, therefore, has been 
a gradual process, one of adding new sections of enlarged channel 
piece by piece to a canal already in full operation. Accordingly it 
is not possible to point to any definite date as the beginning of Barge 
canal traffic. Of course there came a day. May 15, 1918, when the 
canal through its whole length could pass boats of full Barge canal 
dimensions, but for a year or two prior to that time such commerce 
as does not need the whole extent of the canal for its accommodation 
had been plying on the new waterway in enlarged craft. 

In discussing the commerce on the Barge canal the negative fea- 
tures, if the term may be used, loom larger than the positive. More- 
over the recital appears less like a history than an explanation, so 
many untoward situations have arisen to hinder the building up of 
canal traffic. Up to the time when considerable portions of the 
enlarged waterway were opened to traffic, affairs in general had 
been proceeding according to expectation. It was known that there 
were not many really good boats in service at the beginning of new 
canal construction nor many indeed of mediocre or even poorer 


382 History of the Barge Canal 

quality. The unsettled canal policy of the preceding years had not 
conduced to any other condition. And no one wondered that after 
another decade these few boats had become still fewer or that 
dilapidation and unseaworthiness were fast overtaking them all. 
Nor was it anticipated that new boats would be built until shortly 
before the completion of the entire canal project. But just as the 
time was approaching when boat-builders should get busy, the 
unlooked-for, the almost unbelievable happened. Boat construction 
for the canal became impossible because the whole world was at 
war. This impossibility in turn was followed by a series of events 
as unfavorable as they were unexpected. 

Thus it is that we find the State canal oiBcials deprecating both 
the lack of boats and the inability of builders to increase the number. 
In 191 5 a considerable portion of the new canal was open to traffic, 
but by that time costs had reached such a height as to make boat- 
building, and every other form of construction for that matter, 
almost prohibitive. And after the United States entered the war, 
what had been impracticable because of excessive cost became virtu- 
ally impossible because of inability to secure labor and materials at 
any price. When peace was restored costs were slow to come down 
and moreover the Federal authorities retained control of the State 
canals and private capital would not enter the field in competition. 
And so, after these several years since the canal was completed, the 
building up of canal traffic can be said to have only just begun. 

But there have been other obstructions and other causes of delay. 
During the years of new construction the canals, of course, could 
make no strong appeal to shippers and traffic more and more sought 
other channels. The railroads were alive to the opportunity and 
succeeded in turning most of it to their lines. Once diverted it was 
hard to regain. The old shippers had to be won back and the new 
generation which had sprung up had to be educated. Then for some 
unaccountable reason, ignorance it may be, there has been a prejudice 
against the canals and this has had to be overcome. There has been, 
too, a wide-spread belief that the canals are suited to carry only a 
very few kinds of bulky cargo and that passage through them is so 
slow as to render them almost useless for modern times. Two other 
barriers, perhaps the most insuperable, and they go hand in hand, 
are the lack of sufficient transportation companies capable of main- 
taining a far-reaching, dependable and efficient freight service and 
the further lack of through routes, through rates, railroad inter- 
change, prorates, through bills of lading and the other privileges- 
accorded by rail carriers. 

Canal in Operation 383 

Reference is made to these hindrances and delays, not by way of 
apology, but because knowledge of them is necessary to an under- 
standing of canal commerce. Furthermore this subject is so closely 
allied to the topics discussed in the preceding three chapters that 
the four must be read virtually as one. 

In our further study of canal traffic let us consider for a moment 
what the two chief canal officials had to say in regard to commerce 
on the canal soon after any considerable portion was opened by 
navigation. Their comments will serve to confirm and to amplify 
what has just been said. In his annual report for 1917, presented 
to the Legislature of 1918, State Engineer Williams said: 

" During the past year much has been said in the public press as 
to the lack of boats suitable for use on the new canal. It is true that 
such a condition exists. There are practically no boats of a type 
suited for efficient operation on the new system and few, if any, 
are in course of construction. When the canal was planned, it was 
assumed that the Boats to operate in its channel would be provided 
by private capital, and such was the logical conclusion to draw. The 
war, however, has entirely changed this aspect of the situation, and 
without definite assurances from the Federal Government that it will 
cooperate, it seems very doubtful if capital can be attracted to this 
field until peace returns. This is not surprising, inasmuch as capital 
cannot now be induced to take up any new transportation scheme 
unless the Government renders assistance. The unfortunate con- 
dition exists, however, that if a decision to help is not speedily 
arrived at, this splendid canal will not be permitted to play its part 
as a war resource this coming navigation season, not because it will 
not be open for navigation, but because there will be practically no 
equipment to float upon it." 

In speaking of the advisability of use being made of the Barge 
canal by the Federal government, Superintendent of Public Works 
Wotherspoon had the following to say in his annual report of 1917. 
Incidentally it throws light on the subject of canal speed. 

" Failure to make use of a waterway possessing all the physical 
and economical elements required for success, and paralleling the 
railroad routes, would be looked upon by the future historian as an 
inexcusable blunder. Whether the canals be used for the carrying 
of materials and supplies for the armies abroad, or whether they 
will serve the general business interests of the country, the benefits 
are the same. 

384 History of the Barge Canal 

" If economy in freight movement is desired, the canals will supply 
it. If a prompt and speedy receipt of freight is demanded, the 
waterway at the present time excels the railroads. Whatever may 
have been the performance of the railroads in other times, it is a 
matter that may be proved beyond doubt that cargoes by canal pass 
from Buffalo to New York in less time than by rail. Already, with 
a portion of the old canal in use and by means of antiquated canal 
boats, a fleet has made the trip from the Great Lakes to New York 
in a little more than seven days. With the new canal route in use 
for its entire length, five days may be counted as the maximum time 
of passage. 

" To secure a test of comparison, inquiry was made as to the time 
consumed by the railroads in carrying freight between Buffalo and 
New York City. Records were sought regarding some half dozen 
cars. The tracing of one car showed that it was 23 days in transit 
and the least time taken by any car followed was eight days. Tak- 
ing the six cars as a whole, the average time consumed by a car in 
making the trip from Buffalo to New York was 11 days. Argu- 
ments, therefore, against water transportation on the ground of slow 
delivery, are treated with impatience." 

In this same report General Wotherspoon gave his opinion of 
what should be the qualifications of an efficient canal carrier. He 

" The new waterways of this State constitute a great system. If 
the people are to receive the benefits had in mind when the project 
was approved, operations upon it must be conducted in a large way. 
While some business will await the individual boat-owner, his efforts 
alone cannot avail in restoring commerce to the canals in sufficient 
amount to justify their maintenance. 

" In the development and transaction of ordinary business, a high 
degree of efficiency has been reached and the worth of those engaged 
in operating on the canal will be measured by the same standards. 
The splendid waterways about to be thrown open for use present a 
wide field for the activities of energetic, enterprising men who are 
capable of maintaining a dependable freight service. The organiza- 
tion of an operating company must be equal in efficiency to that of 
a railroad and the personnel of the management must be such as to 
command the confidence and respect of the shipping public. The 
shipper may not be expected to entrust merchandise of high value to 
a carrier whose ability either to make delivery as required, or render 
reparation in case of failure, is not assured. As a matter of fact. 

Canal in Operation 385 

the development of canal commerce depends entirely upon the nature 
of the service rendered. Service not only embraces frequent and 
regular sailings but also all of the incidental features demanded by 
the shipper. 

" The traffic available for canal transportation moves to and from 
practically every section of the country. Its first demand is for 
through routes and through rates. To care for it, canal lines must 
serve as broad a territory as the competing railroads. They must 
prorate and interchange traffic with connecting water or rail lines, 
giving shippers a through bill of lading, with the privilege of specify- 
ing through routes, and assume all of the liabilities and conditions 
of carriage incurred by rail carriers. The rates of the canal com- 
panies must be on a fixed basis, published in tariff form, and should 
include marine insurance. In other words, the companies which 
shall operate on the new canal should be worthy of the splendid 
plant placed at their disposal.'' 

We saw in the chapter on Federal control that the year 191 8, 
the first year the Barge canal was open throughout its entire length, 
was not favorable for private use of the new waterway. Neverthe- 
less General Wotherspoon in commenting on the traffic of this 
year says that one who studies the record and analyzes the freight 
movement " can take no discouragement from the results attained, 
in spite of the fact that the total tonnage fell below the 19 17 busi- 
ness by 137,955 tons. He cannot fail to be impressed with the 
many indications of the rehabilitation of the canals as a commercial 

The steady annual decrease of more than fifteen per cent yearly 
for the preceding ten years was arrested, the Superintendent went 
on to say, and although the decline was not turned into an increase 
it was limited to nine per cent. Except for extraordinary condi- 
tions, due to the war, it was believed that the 191 7 tonnage would 
have been exceeded. The decrease appeared to be in west-bound 
traffic, which was accpunted for by war conditions, and there was a 
favorable omen in the increased proportion of through freight. 
Moreover the canals were not alone in their experience. The record 
of business done by Great Lakes and Hudson river boat lines dis- 
closed a similar situation. In this year for the first time modern 
transportation practices were in operation in the stabilizing of rates 
by publication in tariff form and in the maintenance of a traffic 
organization having responsible authorities guaranteeing its activi- 


386 History of the Barge Canal 

Also the efficiency of the canal as a carrier of high class freight 
uas demonstrated. There were certain commodities which were 
:ie\v on the list of canal cargoes or which had not appeared on that 
list for several years. Among these were gasoline, kerosene and 
other oils, molasses, coffee, copper, and electrical machinery, ap- 
paratus and supplies. Flour too was shipped in considerable quan- 
tity for the first time in many years. War orders of knit goods 
were also shipped by canal. At two Barge canal terminals it was 
found necessary to build additional warehouses because of the 
large volume of traffic. 

It was in 1917, it will be recalled, that a traffic bureau had been 
established in the department of the Superintendent .of Public 
Works. During its second year it had been able to reach out 
into wider fields. For one thing a study had been made of the 
possibility of shipping coal by canal and the conclusion was reached 
that in the use of the new waterv.-ay lay the solution of the fuel 
distributing problem for much of Xew York state territor\' and 
even a part of Canada. Early in 1918 the Superintendent pre- 
sented his plan for coal distribution to the Federal authorities, but 
the suggestion ended with a partial suney of the situation by 
Government engineers. 

The freight rates that prevailed during 191 8 did not favor canai 
traffic. The United States was in control of the waterways and the 
parit}- of rail and canal tariffs at first in force and the later small 
diflferential militated against any large use of the canal, even if 
boats had been available. In the preceding year the State had 
made provision for cooperative rates between rail and water car- 
riers, but its authority stopped at the State boundaries and more- 
over canal men did not attempt to have the new law enforced. 
Accordingly, with the exception of through rates between New 
York city and some western points by way of the canal and the 
Great Lakes, there was no cooperation between the various car- 
riers. In spite of repeated urging that it was necessary to estab- 
lish through rates by all practicable routes between producing and 
consuming areas tributarv- to the waterv.ay, in order to broaden the 
spheres of usefulness and influence of the canal, the Federal gov- 
ernment did nothing, although it had acknowledged the wisdom of 
adopting sucli a course by the general policy it had followed in other 
parts of the country. 

One gratifying aspect of canal traffic was the use made of the 
waterwa}- by several large business corporations, which operated 

Canal in Operation 387 

their own boats for carrying their own raw materials or manufac- 
tured products. Two companies to enter this field in 191 8 are 
among the largest business concerns in the country. A somewhat 
incidental but a very important use ,of the Barge canal in botih 

1917 and 1918 was that made,